04/09/2014 02:04 EDT | Updated 06/09/2014 05:59 EDT

Alberta judge urges better understanding of stress on foster babies

EDMONTON - An Alberta judge says child-welfare workers and foster parents need to have a better understanding of the stress babies in care face to prevent sudden, unexplained deaths.

The recommendation is in a report into the death of a 15-week-old boy who was napping in his crib at an Edmonton foster home in December 2010.

Judge Ferne LeReverend said she couldn't determine a cause of death, but she did note that studies have found infants facing high levels of toxic stress are at a greater risk of dying suddenly.

Toxic stress occurs in children who are dealing with prolonged and frequent adversity, something LeReverend says is common for all infants in foster care.

The judge recommends that a doctor trained in toxic stress be assigned to every infant taken into provincial care.

LeReverend says such babies should be cared for on a regular schedule and, where possible, foster parents should be the ones who pick up a child from the hospital.