Phoenix Sinclair was just a week away from remaining in a safe, loving home when she was suddenly returned to her father and the case was closed.
Monday morning, the inquiry into the death of the little girl in care heard from the "place of safety" social worker who in 2003 had Phoenix's godmother Kim Edwards fill out an application to be the foster home for the child who was murdered two years later. Edwards' Selkirk Avenue home was designated a place of safety for Phoenix on July 30, 2003, Mario Rojas testified Monday.
"She was one of those people you'd recommend?" commission counsel Derek Olson asked Rojas.
She was caring for Phoenix after the toddler was apprehended from her father Steve Sinclair at a weekend drinking party at his home. Sinclair was a single parent after Phoenix's mother Samantha Kematch left in June 2001. He and Kematch had a second child in April 2001, who got sick and died in July, leaving Sinclair alone with Phoenix, his grief and a tendency to binge drink.
When after-hours social workers took Phoenix from his care in June 2003, she was placed in foster care. On July 30, 2003, she was moved to the home of her godmother Kim Edwards, a friend of Sinclair's family who had often cared for Phoenix. She and her former partner Rohan Stephenson had both passed criminal record and child abuse registry checks and their home was checked out by the Sinclairs' CFS social worker Stan Williams.
Rojas was the "place of safety" worker assigned to meet with the caregivers and see what, if any, additional help CFS could provide for Phoenix. Rojas, who can't recall the events nine years ago, relied on emails and correspondence from that time for his testimony.
On Sept. 23, 2003, Rojas met with Edwards at her home and offered the option of daycare and respite and had Edwards and her partner fill out the paper work to apply to become an offical foster care home for Phoenix. That had to be done within 30 days of Phoenix arrived at their home, said Rojas. He emailed the social worker, Williams, who was in charge of the case. Williams responded the next day, saying that sounded "fine and dandy."
Williams, who passed away several years ago, said in his email to Rojas that the temporary court order that kept Phoenix in care expired Oct. 2, but he expected it would be extended and Phoenix would stay with Edwards for some time. Williams' email said he believed Sinclair would voluntarily agree to leaving Phoenix in care because he wasn't ready yet to parent her.
On Oct. 3, Phoenix was returned to her father and the file was closed. Rojas said he had nothing to do with the decision — that was between Williams and his supervisor.
Rojas sent Edwards a letter Oct. 10, thanking her for her "care and commitment" to Phoenix and asked if she would consider being a foster parent to other children.
Rojas said because of the "historical shortage" of foster care providers, he would send invitations to some caregivers at places of safety where there had been no problems, like Edwards.
Phoenix was murdered in 2005 by Kematch and her partner, Karl McKay.