POLITICS

Toddler's death in B.C. foster care should have been reviewed two years ago: mom

05/12/2015 03:04 EDT | Updated 05/12/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - A mother whose toddler was found dead in a British Columbia foster home two years ago says she hopes a new ministry review can bring her some peace — but it should have been done sooner.

Sara-Jane Wiens also said a revised coroner's report into her daughter's death appears to have been timed to defend the Ministry of Children and Family Development against accusations of wrongdoing.

"I think they're doing a very poor job trying to cover their butts," said Wiens. "It's frustrating. It's been this long, they should have some kind of answer. They just need to own up to what they did."

Twenty-one-month-old Isabella Wiens was found lying face down underneath a blanket in her crib in March 2013. A coroner could not determine her cause of death, but there were several bruises on her body and healing fractures on her arm.

Wiens filed a lawsuit two months ago against the province and the director of child welfare, alleging they failed to properly supervise her daughter or adequately consider returning her home.

The B.C. Coroners Service released a revised coroner's report Tuesday that maintains that Isabella's injuries could have been either accidental or caused by trauma.

But it also includes new details, including that a police investigation concluded no criminal act led to her death.

The new report includes a more detailed description of the developmentally delayed child's medical history, stating that an infant development worker was visiting her monthly in the Burnaby foster home. Isabella could not walk or stand without help, frequently fell down, and her language skills were comparable to a one-year-old, the report says.

The revised report also states that no one — her foster family, social workers, medical professionals or mother — knew her arm was injured before her death.

"The radiologist that examined the X-rays concluded that fractures of this type are not uncommon in children and not necessarily suggestive of abuse," the report says.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said that she issued the revised report independent of the ministry. No new investigation was undertaken, but details left out of the original report for privacy reasons were included, she said in a statement.

"This case was properly and meticulously investigated from the beginning," she said. "The purpose of this revised report is solely to answer some of the public questions which have recently arisen."

Wiens' lawyer Jack Hittrich said the report clearly minimizes the ministry's responsibility for Isabella's death.

He questioned why the radiologist's statement that the fractures "were not uncommon in children" was not included in the first report and where the evidence was to support it.

He also asked why the infant development worker did not realize Isabella's arm was fractured, and why the report appears to place blame on her mother for not noticing the injury.

Hittrich pointed out that the first report, published in 2014, says a ministry review is already underway.

However, Minister Stephanie Cadieux wrote last month in a letter to member of the legislature Doug Donaldson that the case did not initially qualify for a review. She wrote the director of child welfare had "recently" decided to launch a review based on new information.

In an emailed statement, Cadieux didn't explain the discrepancy, but said the minister does not participate in the director's decision to conduct a review.

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.