A fatality inquiry into the death of a young girl details a system that simply failed to act and now the girl’s mother wants changes.

Velvet Martin says she was told her daughter would have severe disabilities when she was born in 1993 and that in order to get the best supports she should be in government care.

Martin trusted that decision and her daughter Samantha was put into foster care.

The Martins had regular visits and eventually they as well as school officials started documenting injuries Samantha was suffering.

The wounds ranged from bumps and bruises to fractures and bone breaks. The girl was also well underweight and hovered around 50 pounds between age 10 and 13.

School officials were growing concerned Samantha was suffering seizures.

That’s when Martin began the fight to get Samantha back home. Just months after that happened in 2006, she died.

“We trusted and that is something that I will always regret,” said Martin.

She fought for years to have a fatality inquiry performed.

When that finally happened the judge heard testimony teachers noticed the foster parents’ biological child’s lunches were more balanced. When the school raised the issue, the foster mother’s response was to tell the school to “fill Samantha up with water.”

Heath records showed a period of 3 years where Samantha was not seen by a pediatrician or family doctor despite suspected seizures. Caseworkers didn’t meet with the child for 14 months.

“There’s a lot of complexities when it comes to child protection but what this fatality report does is it shows a failure at the most basic of levels,” said NDP MLA Rachel Notley. “Nutrition and health care and following up when the teacher calls to say I think there’s something wrong.”
The inquiry contains recommendations including:

  • Ensuring caseworkers have accurate and up to date information
  • Ensuring children are actually receiving annual medical checkups
  • When observations about injuries are made by reliable sources that a medical examination is performed
  • Ensuring caseworkers have a reasonable case load

“Beyond policy there needs to be repercussions when policy is not adhered to. And government employees must not be above the law. They must be accountable to the law just like everybody else,” said Martin in reaction to the recommendations.

“It’s hoops that people are jumping through and children don’t have time to wait, they end up dying,” she adds.

On Friday Human Services Minsiter Dave Hancock had yet to read the inquiry’s recommendations. His press secretary Craig Loewen said considerations will be taken.

“Of course, we do take the recommendations and results of these inquiries very seriously so we will be taking a look at them very shortly here and seeing what changes we can make,” he said.

No timeline has been given for when those changes would be made but Loewen said there have been several changes to the system since Samantha died so the recommendations could be repetitive.

While Martin hopes changes are made, she said there’s one thing she wouldn’t change.

“I’m very happy to have been Samantha’s Mom. I would do it all over again, as hard as it has been. But I would do it all over again.”

With files from Kevin Armstrong