Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How Humanly Degraded?

"Family and community members tried to create a safety network, but did not have the resources they needed; nor does it appear they knew what to do when the risk increased."
"The family lived in a community with limited access to alcohol. When legal alcohol could not be purchased, it would be made and stored in containers."
"Lily's older brother came home from school and discovered her body in a container of homemade alcohol."
Del Graff, child and youth advocate, Alberta

"This heartbreaking story underscores the need to continuously work to prevent similar incidents. By strengthening how we work with children, families and our service delivery partners — including indigenous partners — we can improve the system as a whole. We still have work to do, and our government is committed to taking action to implement needed improvements."Alberta Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir
Fatal Care: Hundreds known to Alberta child welfare authorities died in the care of their parents. Why?
The dreadful, persistent life-wrecking problem of alcohol abuse in native communities seems unending in its reach and in its consequences. Even though in the aboriginal community there is an awareness of the situation, the allure of alcohol appears to be too great for people to avoid it, or to break away from its demeaning and addictive and destructive use. When tribal councils decide to vote against having alcohol available to reserve residents and ban alcohol, they are defied.

As did a young pair of residents of the remote Fox Lake aboriginal reserve in northern Alberta when they circumvented the interdiction by the simple enough expedient of brewing their own alcohol. And in this particular instance -- the addicted parents of young children who, because of the vulnerability of the children to neglect and abuse from their parents who would imbibe and become violently combative with one another -- the family received services from child intervention workers.

Despite which, the youngest of the couple's children, a ten-month-old little girl, was discovered by her older ten-year-old brother on his return home from school, drowned in a vat of alcohol, their mother in a drunken stupor. One wonders whether this alcohol-addicted pair, setting an example for their surviving children, fully understand how completely they have failed their children, and whether they really care.

Provincial government authorities, on the other hand, do care, and it appears to be they who are suffering the pangs of guilt. Months earlier when the child was eight months of age, intervention workers responded when the child's mother was assaulted by her husband and because she was drunk, taken into custody for the night. A case worker found the mother disinterested in an offer to enter an addiction treatment program; she was as uncooperative with the worker as she was with police.

The child's death spurred an investigative review, and out of that review came recommendations from Mr. Del Graff. Who ascertained to his satisfaction that the child welfare services hadn't been served sufficiently to make certain that the child's extended family was prepared to work in tandem for the purpose of protecting the child from potential harm related to the neglect she was subjected to by her parents.

The child was described as happy and curious, well-adjusted and comfortable with those around her who loved her; the danger being her parents' alcohol abuse. Domestic violence was a component of the parents' drinking habit, leading the children to opt to stay over with grandparents when they themselves felt themselves to be in an unsafe environment represented by two insensibly alcohol-stupefied parents.

This is a family whose plight was flagged a year before the little girl was born, when a delegated First Nations agency providing intervention services on reserves spoke with members of the extended family. At that time the grandparents had agreed they would monitor the situation with their grandchildren's safety and security in mind.

When the little girl was discovered unresponsive by her brother she was taken to the local health centre, and there declared dead. Her mother pleaded guilty to criminal negligence and received 90 days in jail along with two years probation. Her remaining children were taken  from the family home, to be placed in the care of their grandparents.

The province has agreed to honour the two major recommendations that came out of Mr. Del Graff's investigation and report: that frontline workers assist in the creation of support networks and that people involved in support networks be aware what they must do and whom to refer to when risks accelerate.
Little Fox Lake is one of several monitoring sites linked across the globe that help develop United Nations protocols on emissions. (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada)

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