EDMONTON — An Edmonton mother and father whose infant daughter died while in the care of the province in 2013 say they thought for more than a year that their baby died of sudden infant death syndrome, when that wasn’t the case.
“The reason I was upset about it was that I had known nothing about it,” said Sauve, Dani’s mother.
Dani was three weeks old when she was taken into provincial care. Three weeks later, Sauve received a phone call telling her Jean was in the hospital.
“On the way to the hospital I kept praying that she wasn’t dead,” she recalled. “But she was gone.”
A few days after Dani’s death, Sauve says she was told by the medical examiner that her daughter died of SIDS. But the couple learned through a media report last August that Dani died after becoming tangled in her foster parents’ bed sheets. Her death was deemed accidental.
The newspaper report had to do with the Child and Youth Advocate of Alberta’s report into the baby’s death. Sauve and Jean received a copy of it, but didn’t realize it would be published.
“So now I’m confused, ME (medical examiner) says sudden infant death, this report says accidental death due to bed-sharing and I have no idea anymore,” said Sauve.
Sauve says there was another surprise this past December, again through a media report, when the couple learned the province had ordered a fatality inquiry into Dani’s death.
Dani’s parents accused the province of leaving them in the dark.
“It makes it really hard for us to get any kind of closure because who’s telling the truth? What is the actual truth about how she died?” said Jean.
Alberta’s foster care system has been under scrutiny in recent years. In April 2014, the province introduced changes to allow the publication of names and photos of children who had died in government care. Bill 11 became law in July of last year.
Some critics say the system is still broken.
“For a long time now this PC government has not dealt with children in care properly,” said NDP Human Services critic David Eggen. “It’s an indication of larger issues of not caring about people who need care the most.”
“In general, the family or next of kin is informed of the public fatality inquiry when it is confirmed there will be an inquiry and when the inquiry is scheduled,” Dan Laville, a spokesperson with Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, said in an emailed statement.
“The notification process can be affected for any number of reasons, including difficulties related to locating the next of kin and precautions related to privacy considerations.”
Laville says there are a number of ways for families to raise concerns, including contacting the Fatality Review Board.
Sauve and Jean say they want accountability to ensure no parents have to experience what they’ve been through.
“It’s really questionable whether we’re really getting all of the pertinent information,” said Jean. “This should never happen. This should never happen to any family. Ever.”