April 21, 2019

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CFS apprehended newborn 'deemed in need of protection': court files

Concerns about mental health issues and substance abuse led Child and Family Services staff to seize a newborn baby girl from her mother’s care in January — a traumatic event that was livestreamed from a St. Boniface hospital room, later reaching more than a million viewers on Facebook.

The family’s case was on the child protection court docket Wednesday, but was adjourned for a week.

In court documents, a Winnipeg-based CFS agency worker reported: “The child was deemed in need of protection and placed under apprehension” because her mother was experiencing mental health issues, including ADHD, anxiety and depression.

There were also safety concerns about the baby’s unnamed father, and details raised about the mother’s previous history with the child-welfare system.

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Concerns about mental health issues and substance abuse led Child and Family Services staff to seize a newborn baby girl from her mother’s care in January — a traumatic event that was livestreamed from a St. Boniface hospital room, later reaching more than a million viewers on Facebook.

The family’s case was on the child protection court docket Wednesday, but was adjourned for a week.

The mother spoke to the media the day after the apprehension of her newborn baby by Child and Family Services.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The mother spoke to the media the day after the apprehension of her newborn baby by Child and Family Services.

In court documents, a Winnipeg-based CFS agency worker reported: "The child was deemed in need of protection and placed under apprehension" because her mother was experiencing mental health issues, including ADHD, anxiety and depression.

There were also safety concerns about the baby’s unnamed father, and details raised about the mother’s previous history with the child-welfare system.

The Free Press reached out to the mother’s lawyer, who said she was not able to comment on the allegations in the court file Wednesday.

No participant in child protection hearings, including the legal team, can be identified under Manitoba law.

According to the case file, the mother was the subject of two abuse investigations with regards to an older daughter. It's unclear whether charges were laid in regards to those investigations.

The elder daughter was brought into CFS care in 2014, "due to concerns of substance abuse (crack cocaine and alcohol), neglect, the mother’s mental health and inappropriate parenting," an agency worker wrote.

During her latest pregnancy, the mother allegedly told an agency worker she was an alcoholic and undertook treatment twice, but didn’t finish either session.

On Dec. 28, 2018, the mother underwent a hair follicle drug test, which tested positive for oxycodone use within the past three months, according to the case file. On Jan. 7, she allegedly told an agency worker she also used cocaine during the last three months of her pregnancy.

When the mother was taken to deliver her baby Jan. 7, emergency medical services responders and hospital staff believed she was "under the influence" and "observed her to smell of alcohol," documents said.

During a news conference at the First Nations family advocate's office Jan. 11, her family denied allegations the mother was intoxicated at the hospital. They countered that she was experiencing labour pains and needed medication.

The day after the baby's birth, hospital staff reported the mother "appeared overwhelmed by the requirements of parenting" and was asking for "intense painkillers," such as morphine, rather than the Tylenol No. 1s she was prescribed.

Nurses were concerned the mother couldn't "attend to" the baby's hunger and intervened to feed her by bottle, the case file noted.

The family previously said they wanted an aunt to take care of the baby, if her mother wasn't able.

In court documents, the CFS agency said it did consider a family member for parenting help and began completing background checks. "Those checks came back with concerning results which required further assessment and gathering of information from other sources," the case file said.

As per the file, the mother said the baby’s father could be one of two men; one of whom was verbally abusive and she considered a "bad guy."

In court Wednesday, a lawyer representing Island Lake CFS — the baby's file was transferred from the Winnipeg agency last month — said a man recently came forward saying he is the father.

The man will be represented by a third lawyer at the next court proceeding.

The affected family’s story made international headlines in January after the Facebook video went viral, sparking public outcry about the overrepresentation of Indigenous families in Manitoba's child-welfare system.

It also shone a spotlight on the practice of birth alerts, which notify CFS agencies when babies are born into what they believe could be deemed unsafe environments.

The family believed the baby was the subject of a birth alert in January, which court documents did not confirm.

Manitoba has more than 11,000 children in care and close to 90 per cent of them are Indigenous. Government statistics show roughly one newborn is apprehended in Manitoba each day.

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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