Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

One bad spot to another

Phoenix rarely in a safe environment

  • Print

As Phoenix Sinclair was shuffled from crisis to crisis, in and out of care, it's almost surprising she lived to the age of five.

The inquiry into her death Tuesday heard how the little girl bounced from one unsuitable environment to another -- from a weekend drinking party with gang members at her father's place, to her time spent with her absent, boozing mother and crack-smoking grandmother, to living in a former "place of safety" where the occupants failed to notify anyone they had Phoenix in their care.

When Winnipeg Child and Family Services located Phoenix at the "place of safety" in January 2004, the agency decided to leave her there and close the file, the inquiry heard.

The inquiry is attempting to get to the bottom of the tragic case of Phoenix and how the child welfare system failed her.

It is now in its fifth week and could run until May.

Lisa Conlin was the intake worker assigned the case when Phoenix was found at the home of Kim Edwards and Rohan Stephenson in January 2004. She closed the file and sent the couple a letter on Feb. 13, 2004, saying they shouldn't let Phoenix be returned to her father.

It did not specify they shouldn't let Phoenix be returned to her mother.

"That was an oversight on my part," Conlin testified at the inquiry Tuesday.

Both the little girl's father, Steve Sinclair, and her mother, Samantha Kematch, would put Phoenix at risk and both had the legal right to take Phoenix at any time, Conlin acknowledged.

Edwards and Stephenson had been a former "place of safety" approved by CFS, but they had no legal custody of the little girl.

In May 2004, CFS learned Kematch wanted Phoenix. In 2005, she murdered her five-year-old daughter.

Phoenix's death wasn't discovered until 2006.

CFS had closed the file on Kematch in 2001 after she left Phoenix with Steve Sinclair.

Conlin said Phoenix was in a safe place with Edwards and Stephenson. The intake worker focused on Steve Sinclair because he was the one who was supposed to care for Phoenix. She knew Kematch wasn't out of the picture, though.

On Jan. 15, 2004, CFS got a call that Phoenix was with Kematch and was at risk. The caller said Kematch took a then-three-year-old Phoenix from Sinclair's home while he left his daughter alone in mid-November 2003. Phoenix had been returned to him in October after she was apprehended by CFS and a temporary order placed her in care for three months. She was taken from her dad in June 2003 during a weekend drinking party when there was no food in the home but plenty of gang members, the inquiry heard earlier. When the three-month court order expired, Sinclair got Phoenix back -- no questions asked.

The caller in January 2004 accused Kematch of leaving the toddler to go drinking and in the care of her own mother who smoked "rock". Conlin followed up and found that Phoenix had been taken from Kematch on Jan. 2, 2004, by Edwards and Stephenson. They hadn't notified CFS that they had Phoenix for nearly three weeks or report what kind of situation they had rescued her from, Conlin said.

Nor did they mention they had broken up and Edwards was no longer living in the home, Conlin said.

As far as the intake worker knew, the home was still a place of safety, she said.

Stephenson told her they were happy to care for Phoenix and didn't need or want any help from CFS.

Conlin didn't follow up with the couple or speak to Edwards. Her supervisor advised her to contact the last supervisor of the file, Heather Edinborough, for advice. Edinborough, who testified at the inquiry last week, recommended leaving Phoenix with Edwards and Stephenson and transferring the file back to family services.

Conlin said she decided to close the file rather that transfer it to a family services social worker for followup.

"The main reason was we had an agreement with Steve (Sinclair), the Stephensons and myself... there was no immediate crisis in the actual home she was in."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2012 A4

History

Updated on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 9:28 AM CST: adds fact box, changes headline

9:43 AM: adds new photo of Steve Sinclair

12:56 PM: restores print headline, removes Cover it Live

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Cheap summer weekends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Winnipeg’s best friend the dragon fly takes a break at English Gardens in Assiniboine Park Wednesday- A dragon fly can eat  food equal to its own weight in 30 minutes-Standup photo- June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • STDUP ‚Äì Beautiful West End  begins it's summer of bloom with boulevard s, front yards  and even back lane gardens ,  coming alive with flowers , daisies and poppies  dress up a backyard lane on Camden St near Wolseley Ave  KEN GIGLIOTTI  / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  /  June 26 2012

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will higher pork prices change your grocery-shopping habits?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google