October 14, 2016 - 5:38 AM
REGINA - Saskatchewan's child advocate says a 2 1/2-month old boy who died while under the watch of a First Nations care agency needed more protection.
Bob Pringle says there were significant concerns about the care the premature baby and his eight siblings were getting before he died of bronchopneumonia, which arose from a bacterial infection, in October 2015.
The baby, identified by the pseudonym Aiden, was getting support from the Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services.
"There was no ongoing monitoring by the agency about whether these children were safe every single day, and that's where the major failing was," Pringle said Thursday.
There had been numerous concerns with the family since 2010, including reports of domestic violence and substance abuse and that the children were left alone.
Pringle said the agency didn't do proper risk assessments, didn't properly document what it was doing and didn't properly investigate to know whether the children were safe.
"The risk was clear to the children and the supports weren't put in place," he said.
Pringle also noted that medical appointments were missed and doctors or nurses could have detected the baby's illness.
"Now we can't prove ... that if there was closer monitoring, he would not have died," said Pringle. "But I can conceive of the notion that if he had gone to his medical appointments ... his condition would have been picked up sooner in time to save him."
Aiden's siblings have since been removed from the home.
Pringle said the fact that those children are not there now "would suggest that they probably shouldn't have been there then."
The advocate said it would be difficult to comment on the quality of casework with other families because his office only looked at the one case.
"But let me say, I'm a little worried."
The investigation was described as challenging because the tribal council initially denied having involvement with the baby and his family.
The council also argued that the advocate had no powers to investigate on reserve, so its co-operation was "reluctant and selective," said Pringle.
Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas said in a statement later Thursday that the agency was working with the family but the child was not in care.
Thomas added that the agency is committed to supporting children and families.
"The advocate and the ministry may not agree with our techniques but the fact remains that STC is amongst the lowest in apprehensions but more importantly, in this case, applying and following the ministry's procedures would not have changed the outcome," he wrote.
He said the agency made significant changes before the advocate's report was released and remains committed to continuous improvement.
Thomas also urged people not to take the advocate's report at face value. "Make the effort to understand the issues completely."
In June, the Ministry of Social Services took back responsibility for children under the care of the Saskatoon Tribal Council.
First Nations agencies are required to monitor and track children in care on reserve and report back to the ministry. But the province said it had to step in because the tribal council wasn't sharing even basic information, such as how many children were in care or their names.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016