Advocate for Children and Youth Releases Investigation in Toddler’s Death in Overcrowded Foster Home
SASKATOON – Bob Pringle, Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth, released his report No Time for Mark: The Gap Between Policy and Practice today. It is an investigation into a toddler in the care of the Minister of Social Services, who passed away in an overcrowded foster home.
This child, referred to as “Mark” in the report, was found face down in the bathtub by his foster father on the evening of June 8, 2010. The Coroner determined that the medical cause of death was drowning, and the manner was accidental. The circumstances of his death were the subject of a court case as the foster mother was charged with criminal negligence causing his death. The matter proceeded to court and she was found not guilty.
Mark’s real name was not used in the report as The Advocate for Children and Youth Act prohibits the disclosure of names to protect the privacy of the children and families involved.
The primary focus of the report is an examination of the services that Mark and his family received from the Ministry of Social Services and other child-serving agencies, to determine if they received the services to which they were entitled. The report includes reference to past recommendations made in previous reports and nine new recommendations, which are reprinted in full in the attached backgrounder.
Mark entered foster care at the age of seven months, due to concerns regarding mental health and domestic violence in his family. For the majority of his time in care, Mark was cared for by extended family members until they could no longer care for him. At that point, he entered foster care. The Ministry of Social Services was in the process of approving a different extended family member to care for Mark, but this process was not completed before he passed away.
On April 12, 2010, Mark was placed into a foster home which was overcrowded. The foster home had been approved to care for three foster children. When Mark was placed in the home, he was the fifth child under four years of age. The foster home only had one bedroom for foster children and they used a basement bedroom for Mark and another foster child. The foster parents were not provided additional support to assist them to care for the number of children in their care.
“Although I recognize that the Ministry of Social Services has made attempts to address some critical issues in the child welfare system since Mark’s death five years ago, both this investigation and our more recent ones into children’s deaths in care have made it clear that there are persistent issues in noncompliance with policy,” said Advocate Bob Pringle. “This is a systemic problem.”
Systemic issues identified in the report include the lack of quality case management and supervision, lack of policy compliance generally, adherence to required contact standards when a child is placed into an out-of-home resource, the quality of investigations, and the continued need to place children in foster homes which are over their recommended capacity.
Pringle has continued to call for foster homes to be licensed, to improve public confidence that the government is accountable and raise the bar to the highest level in ensuring that the rights, interests, and well-being of children and youth are respected.
“The intent of licensing is so that foster parents can be better supported to care for some of the province’s most vulnerable children,” said Pringle. “While I agree that the Ministry of Social Services has good policies to provide accountability and oversight of the foster care system, I would like to see these policies embedded in law, to ensure that they are upheld.”
“Like ‘Jake’ before him, whose death we reported on in September 2014, Mark did not get the good start in life to which all children are entitled,” Pringle said. “I simply cannot understand why the Ministry of Social Services did not provide the support needed to Mark’s foster parents to keep the young children in their care safe. At the time of Mark’s death, his parents were waiting for the Ministry of Social Services to move Mark to be cared for by an extended family member, which is tragic.”
“Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Mark had the right to be safe, to be protected, and to have the supports to reach his full potential, as do all our children and youth. Our investigation found that Mark’s rights were violated, and that this was a preventable death,” said Pringle.
The Advocate for Children and Youth is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. He leads a small team of advocates, investigators and other staff who work on behalf of the province’s young people. Our vision is that the rights, interests and well-being of children and youth are respected and valued in our communities and in government legislation, policy, programs and practice.
For the full report please visit: www.saskadvocate.ca.
For more information contact:
Fleur Macqueen Smith
Senior Advisor, Communications
(306) 933-6700 or (639) 471-8585
Report: No Time For Mark: The Gap Between Policy and Practice