Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grieving family demands answers

Baby dies while under care of CFS

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Minutes after a baby's funeral took place, a family from Colombia demanded answers from Child and Family Services about why the infant died in its care -- and why the baby was seized in the first place.

Matias De Antonio, who was born on Feb. 24, died March 27, about a month after being placed in the custody of CFS.

Now Matias's family in Winnipeg, including his 20-year-old mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles, want to know what happened to the child.

"These people have to stop doing things like this," De Antonio's uncle, Carlos Burgos, said Wednesday in a Fort Richmond apartment shortly after the baby's funeral at the St. Vital Cemetery.

"I want people who don't know how to do their job to pay for this. This should not happen to another family."

Burgos said CFS hasn't told the family much, but it does know the baby died from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

'I want to tell Manitobans that we're going to learn from this tragedy...' -- Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross

Burgos said Maria Herrera, his sister and Matias's mother -- who was allowed to see her baby three times a week for two hours -- had just seen him when a CFS worker put him in a car seat and drove him 38 minutes away to a foster home. When the worker went to take Matias out of the car, the baby was blue.

Burgos said he doesn't understand why, with so many family members of his sister living in Winnipeg, CFS made the decision to take the baby away in the first place. He said the baby's father was refused a visa to allow him to come to the funeral from Colombia.

"My mother is here. (My sister's sister) has twins who are five -- she could have looked after them," he said.

"We all came here in 2008. We love Canada. It's an amazing country.

"This should not have happened to us."

In a statement, a representative of the province's Family Services Department said they are restricted from speaking about individual cases because of provisions in the Child and Family Services Act.

The representative said the Manitoba Children's Advocate reviews deaths of children in care while the province's chief medical examiner has the power to call an inquest if it is felt one is needed.

Ainsley Krone, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Children's Advocate, said any information their office finds or any recommendations made will not be made public.

Krone said the office will send any reports to the family services minister, the chief medical examiner and the province's ombudsman.

"We would look at the services delivered and whether they met the needs of the family and to see if there are any gaps," she said.

"The system should always be looking at improving itself."

Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said Wednesday she also was unable to discuss specifics of the case under CFS rules.

Irvin-Ross said the children's advocate will investigate the death and report back to government and various CFS agencies.

Once the government knows more information, "We will be able to provide some insight to the family about their horrible loss," she said.

The minister said she learned of the infant's death last week. She expressed her condolences to the family. "I want to tell Manitobans that we're going to learn from this tragedy and that it is important that when we get the recommendations from the children's advocate that we put them in place and that we continue to build a better child-welfare system that supports families and protects children."

Progressive Conservative Family Services critic Ian Wishart said the family deserves to get answers from the government on what happened.

"Right now they're being left in limbo," Wishart said Wednesday after raising the incident in the legislature.

"They still don't know any details on cause of death. They frankly still don't know why the child was taken from them in the first place," he said.

Wishart said the infant had only been in care of CFS for three weeks. He said the family had been "making every effort" to satisfy child-welfare authorities they were fit to take back the child when they learned of his death.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2014 A6

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