Wed. Feb 19th, 2020

Charges stayed against pair charged with failing to safely care for Serenity

2 min read

Alberta prosecutors have stayed charges against the former caregivers of Serenity, a little girl whose death sparked a review of the province’s child welfare system.

In 2017, police charged Serenity’s great-aunt and great-uncle jointly with one count of failing to provide the necessaries of life while the little girl was in their care. Alberta courts said the charge was stayed on Tuesday.

The four-year-old girl died at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in 2014. RCMP have said her death was not considered criminal, and that the charges were related to the “circumstances and conditions” in which she was living.

Serenity’s mother, who now lives outside Alberta, said she was called to meet with Alberta RCMP and Crown officials in her hometown Tuesday afternoon.

“I sat down and they told me they didn’t have good news for me,” she said, about half an hour after the meeting. “They told me because of the preliminary (hearing), of the evidence that got brought forth, that there was no point on taking matters forward, and that they’re dropping the charges.”

The development makes her feel “heartbroken, sad,” she said. “I feel like they failed me, and they failed my daughter.”

Girl’s death prompted child welfare system changes

Postmedia has not identified Serenity’s mother, or the relatives charged, as doing so risks identifying Serenity’s surviving siblings. It would risk breaching Alberta child welfare legislation, which prohibits media from identifying minors who were previously in the care of the government.

The news comes more than five months after a judge committed Serenity’s great-aunt and great-uncle to stand trial on a charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life. That decision followed a multi-week preliminary hearing that began in Wetaskiwin in February, held to determine whether there is enough evidence to send a case to trial.

When charges are stayed, criminal proceedings halt. Prosecutors have one year to decide whether to continue to proceed with the case.

After Postmedia revealed troubling details about Serenity’s life and death, the then-NDP government struck a child intervention panel to review the province’s child welfare system.

Her death also prompted government to pass the Child Protection and Accountability Act, which requires the province’s child and youth advocate to examine the death of every child in government care within a year and publicly report his findings.

jfrench@postmedia.com

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