Parents stunned by news of inquiry into baby’s death while in care

Paul Jean holds his daughter, Dani Isabella Jean, shortly before she died on May 4, 2013. She was found tangled in her foster mother's bed sheets. EDMONTON - Paul Jean believed for more than a year that his six-week-old daughter had died in foster care from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

From a newspaper report in August he learned she’d actually become tangled in her foster parents’ bed sheets, and died by accident. He also believed for a long time that a Child and Youth Advocate’s report into Dani Jean’s death, released in August 2014, was the final word from the government. But on Saturday, also from a newspaper report, he discovered that the province had ordered a fatality inquiry into her death.

He and Dani’s mother, Kuna-Bianca Sauve, had no idea what that meant. “We keep thinking we have grieved, but then we find that we haven’t, because we never know anything,” Jean said. “We were never really privy to any of the documents, and there has been so much coverup since. We’re just a simple family, I’m a blue-collar worker. “Trying to get documents like this is completely out of my expertise. Where would I start? We were relying on Child and Family Services to give us information.”

The most recent story, published in the Journal on Saturday, was based on a new Alberta Justice calendar that listed, for the first time, the full names of children whose deaths in foster care will be subject to a judge-led fatality inquiry.

Until recently, Alberta had in place a sweeping publication ban that prevented government from publishing the names of children who were known to the child welfare system. The government overturned that ban earlier this year and replaced it with a new law that says the child’s name is public unless the child’s family applies for a ban.

As a result, Alberta Justice has started listing names that were long protected by a publication ban and had never been published before — names like Dani Isabella Catherine Jean, who died May 4, 2013, when she was just six weeks old. Another new policy requires the province to publicly report each child welfare death within four days of the child’s death. The most recent posting revealed a 14-year-old girl died on Dec. 19. She is the 13th child to die since July, according to figures released by the government earlier this year.

Human Services spokesman Mike Berezowsky did not release any additional details about the teen’s death, so nothing is known about who she was, how she died, or why. He said the teen’s family is still deciding whether to apply for a publication ban, which would bar news outlets from publishing her name. Meanwhile, other names made public for the first time on Dec. 17 include that of Braedan Dean Belcourt, a 16-year-old boy who died by suicide in 2012 and whose death was the subject of a report from the Child and Youth Advocate called Remembering Brian.

A fatality inquiry is scheduled Feb. 12 in Edmonton. Forthcoming fatality inquiries also include a hearing into the death of Anthony James Leadley, a 14-week-old baby found dead in his crib in 2011. A judge will also review the death of J’Lyn Michelle Cardinal, 4, whose aunt was convicted of manslaughter in connection with her 2011 death.

In the coming months, a judge is expected to issue a fatality inquiry report into the death of Fenton Cattleman, 16, who died after falling down the stairs at a house party in Maskwacis in 2011. Inquiries that have been called but not scheduled include reviews of the deaths of three teens who died by suicide: Tylan Mason Poucette, 17, who died in Morley in 2008; Lissa Nanooch, 15, who died in Wabasca-Desmarais in 2013; and Kaan Onal, a 17-year-old Turkish boy who died in Peace River in 2012. Oral was the subject of a Child and Youth Advocate’s report called Kamil: An Immigrant Youth’s Struggle.

The Fatality Inquiry Review Board has also called an inquiry into the high-profile death of Kawliga Potts, 3, who died in 2007 after he suffered a head injury in foster care. His caregiver, Lily Choy, was convicted of manslaughter.

In its most recent rulings, the board has ordered fatality inquiries be held in connection with the high-profile deaths of Kyleigh Crier, 15, and Nevaeh Michaud, 9. Crier died by suicide, while Michaud died in her sleep. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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