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CFS supervisor defends decision to close Sinclair file

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Actually seeing Phoenix Sinclair before closing the file on her might have been a "best practice" of Winnipeg Child and Family Service, but no rules were broken if that didn't occur, the inquiry into the little girl's death heard this morning.

Diva Faria, who was the supervisor in charge of the Winnipeg CFS crisis response unit the last two times Winnipeg Child and Family Services was called about the family, testified there were no known child protection concerns when she closed the file on Phoenix in December 2004 and again in March 2005.

Phoenix was murdered in 2005 by her mother Samantha Kematch and her stepfather Karl "Wes" McKay but her death wasn't discovered until 2006. The province ordered an inquiry in 2011 to find out how the five-year-old girl fell through Manitoba's child protection safety net.

The inquiry heard earlier from Faria that she approved of closing the file in December 2004 after the social worker assigned to the case hadn't seen Phoenix. The case was assigned after Kematch, who had an extensive history of CFS involvement, had another baby. The social worker contacted the public health nurse who visited the home to see the mom and newborn.

The nurse, who didn't recall or make note of seeing Phoenix, didn't report any concerns to CFS so Faria apporved closing the file. In March 2005, a foster parent called CFS to report that Kematch may be abusing Phoenix and locking Phoenix in a room. Workers who visited the home then didn't get inside the apartment, see Phoenix, or find out why the bedroom door had a lock on the outside.

On Monday, Faria maintained that there was nothing indicating Phoenix was being abused, or if she was being confined.

"As I said earlier, there were no known child protection concerns at that time," Faria told the inquiry that moved from the Winnipeg Connvention Centre to the Fort Garry Hotel for the week.

 "Saying there were no known child protection concerns is different than saying you know there's no child protection concerns," said lawyer Jeff Gindin, who is representing Phoenix's father Steve Sinclair and her long-time caregiver Kim Edwards.

Gindin asked her why she didn't insist that social workers see the child before closing the file. Faria has no direct recollection of the case and no notes from that time. She testified that, at that time, social workers weren't required to see the child when abuse was suspected, she said. It was "best practice" to see the child but they could also go to a nurse or the school for information on a child, she said. Faria said she trusted the social workers she supervised to review case histories and make clinical judgements to guide their decisions.

"Does Common sense play a role?," Gindin then asked.

"Absolutely," she answered.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Monday, January 21, 2013 at 4:09 PM CST: Corrects typo

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