TORONTO — Protecting kids is not only the job of children’s aid societies, but it is “every citizen’s responsibility,” a coroner’s jury said Friday as it recommended sweeping changes to the child welfare system in Ontario.
Jeffrey Baldwin was a healthy baby when he and his siblings were placed in the care of their grandparents, but over the next few years the boy fell multiple times through society’s safety nets and starved to death, locked in a cold, fetid bedroom.
When he died just shy of his sixth birthday his weight was that of a 10-month-old infant.
The jury in the coroner’s inquest into Jeffrey’s death issued a broad slate of 103 recommendations Friday, aimed at closing various gaps in the system so no other child meet’s Jeffrey’s fate.
The most glaring oversight in Jeffrey’s case was the failure of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society to check out Jeffrey’s grandparents before giving them custody of the boy and his siblings.
Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman had both previously been convicted of abusing children — Bottineau was convicted after her first baby died and was found to have multiple fractures, while Kidman was convicted after a beating sent two of Bottineau’s other children to hospital.
But when Bottineau came forward to the CCAS and offered to care for her grandchildren, she seemed well-meaning and workers didn’t look deeper, said Mary McConville, the executive director of the CCAS in Toronto.
“We should have known who Elva Bottineau and Norm Kidman were,” she said after the jury’s verdict.
“The entire child welfare system at that time had a collective blind spot around extended family.”