03/21/2016 03:23 EDT | Updated 03/21/2016 05:59 EDT

Alberta Baby's Death Prompts Call For Support For Parents With Addictions

Social workers had received concerns about drinking in the home before the girl's death.

EDMONTON — Alberta's child advocate is calling for more support for children of parents with addictions after a baby drowned in a batch of homebrew.

Del Graff also recommended in his report released Monday that workers need to better know what to do and who to notify when a child is at risk.

"Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive use despite harmful consequences,'' wrote Graff.

"It is possible for addicts to become so focused on the substance they overlook needs of their children.''

Graff's report doesn't identify the dead girl's family. The child's mother earlier pleaded guilty in court to criminal negligence causing the death of her daughter in 2013.

"It is possible for addicts to become so focused on the substance they overlook needs of their children.''

A judge heard that the 10-month-old girl tumbled head first into a crate of a fermented potato-yeast concoction while her mother was sleeping off a night of drinking in their trailer in Fox Lake, a remote, northern community that is part of the Little Red River Cree Nation.

The baby's 12-year-old brother made the discovery when he came home from school for lunch.

The mother was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

Mother had been drinking since she was a teen

The report detailed how the woman, whose own mother was an alcoholic, started drinking as a teen. She and her husband both drank, which led to violence, and their children would often go to their grandparents when they didn't feel safe.

Child intervention workers received concerns about drinking in the home about a year before the girl was born, said the report. The grandparents agreed to monitor the situation and the file was closed.

When the baby was about eight months old, the woman was assaulted by her husband and she was jailed for a night because she was drunk and not co-operating with police, the report said. She separated from her husband and refused a referral to a treatment program.

Home's safety was being assessed

A month later, the woman fell asleep after drinking at a friend's home and a fire started. A family member rescued her and the baby. The report said the fire was not revealed to social workers.

A First Nations agency was assessing the home's safety when the girl died. Her siblings were later placed in the care of their grandparents.

Graff said that when the woman and her husband were sober, they were caring and attentive parents. Still, the girl lived in an unpredictable environment.

Lack of stable housing

"Her parents' drinking and lack of stable housing were problems that were not easily solved,'' he wrote. "Family and community members tried to create a safety network, but did not have the resources they needed; nor does it appear that they knew what to do when the risk increased.''

Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir said in a statement that his office will review the report and meet with Graff.

"This heartbreaking story underscores the need to continuously work to prevent similar incidents,'' Sabir said.

"By strengthening how we work with children, families and our service delivery partners, including indigenous partners, we can improve the system as a whole.''

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