Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Up to 6 months for negligent mom

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A Winnipeg mom who locked up her two young kids in a filthy apartment to go drinking faces a possible six months in jail.

The mother, 22, previously pleaded guilty to a charge of child abandonment and appeared before provincial court Judge Tracey Lord for sentencing Wednesday.

She made plans to celebrate her 21st birthday at a hotel bar and left her children, aged 2 and 4, locked in separate rooms of a Manitoba Housing suite in November 2012, Lord was told.

One of the children is disabled, Crown attorney Sharyl Thomas said.

'These kids were in grave danger -- anything could have happened... '

-- Crown attorney Sharyl Thomas

Child and Family Services got an anonymous tip about the unsupervised kids and called police. Security let officers into the suite and they found the children naked and shut in separate rooms, Lord heard.

The apartment was filthy, with feces on the floor and a fly infestation due to a stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen, Thomas said.

The kids were checked out at Children's Hospital. One was found to be anemic and the other had bedbug bites, Lord heard.

The woman got word police were at her home and she left the bar to return. Police told her to stay away from her kids and she elected to return to the bar, Thomas said. This shows the woman's "absolute callous disregard for the welfare of her children," she said.

"These kids were in grave danger -- anything could have happened that night," said Thomas.

The kids have remained in foster care since that evening. In the intervening time, the mom has made "great efforts" to address her issues in hopes of reclaiming them one day, Thomas said.

Despite this, Thomas added, a message needed to be sent to the woman and the general public. She asked Lord for six months of jail in the case and opposed the idea she be allowed to serve the term at home by way of a conditional sentence.

Given her youth and limited education, the "naive and impressionable" mom wasn't being callous by returning to the bar after coming home to find them apprehended, defence lawyer Ian McNaught said.

"She couldn't see the kids, she had nowhere else to go," McNaught said.

"She didn't want to be in the house in the state that it was in so she went back to the bar," he said. She made a "stupid decision" to go out that night, but the woman was nearing "the end of her rope" caring for the kids and needed a break, McNaught said. She made efforts to find a babysitter but that fell through, he added.

He said CFS has been "impressed" with the mom's efforts to become a better parent. McNaught asked Lord to give the woman a suspended sentence and let her avoid jail. Sending her to lockup would only destroy the work she's done to rebuild relationships with her kids, McNaught said.

Lord will issue a decision March 11.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 16, 2014 B2

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