Report highlights gaps in case of abused toddler

Social workers, police officers and doctors were all investigating the alleged abuse of a Calgary toddler with broken legs and previously broken arms.

CALGARY — Social workers, police officers and doctors were all investigating the alleged abuse of a Calgary toddler with broken legs and previously broken arms.

But a report shows the groups followed different policies, used different language, and had different timelines that bogged down the case before the 14-month-old girl was killed last year.

Alberta Children Services Minister Yvonne Fritz admitted Thursday the three systems could have worked better for the little girl.

She said the government will accept recommendations made by the panel who authored the report, so that everyone can better work together to protect children.

The girl’s grandfather shouted angry questions at a new conference about the report, but later said he had calmed down after meeting with the minister about his concerns.

“I’m not going to rant and rave about social services,” he said. “I blame the killer.”

Social workers began investigating a few days after the girl went to hospital with the broken legs, when her grandparents called to express concern.

The report said police did not get involved until a pediatric child abuse specialist was able to see the child and recommend a criminal investigation.

All three agencies collaborated and a decision was made that it was in the best interest of the child to remain in the home with her mother.

In May 2010, two months after the girl was first taken to hospital, her mother and her boyfriend rushed her there again. Tests revealed she died of asphyxiation. Her grandfather says she was strangled.

Police determined the death was a homicide, but have yet to make an arrest. They say they have two suspects.

“The person responsible for the death of this child is a murderer,” Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson said at the news conference. He promised the girl’s grandparents that the killer will eventually be arrested.

“I don’t care how long it’s going to take,” Hanson said.

NDP critic Rachel Notley said she found nothing of significance in the report and criticized its lack of detail.

“You can’t ascertain exactly what happened and the recommendations defy any level of accountability,” she said, renewing calls for the creation of an independent children’s advocate in the province.

Also among the report’s recommendations is the creation of an arm’s-length “quality assurance” council to look at which cases involving injuries and deaths need an independent review. The province will spend $1.5 million over three years for the project.

The province also plans to have social workers and police child abuse investigators working out of one location.