Amelia Keyookta was four and a half months old when she died. The jury at the baby’s inquest will deliver their findings on Friday. (Submitted by Sheldon Toner)
In closing statements, the coroner’s counsel at the inquest into baby Amelia Keyookta’s death suggested 11 recommendations the jury could possibly make.
Keyookta was taken into care after a social worker found her in a home full of marijuana smoke in 2015. She was in protective care for less than a day when she was found unresponsive at a caregiver’s home, where she’d been placed temporarily by a department social worker.
The six jurors are required to determine the cause of death, the time and location of death, and they can give recommendations directed at specific organizations or individuals to make changes that could prevent similar deaths in the future.
The 11 recommendations were agreed on by all counsel in the inquest, including the lawyers representing the government of Nunavut and Amelia’s mother, Loanna Keyookta.
The jurors are not obligated to accept any of the proposed recommendations; they can accept all of them, some or none and can add their own tweaks. Family Services welcomes recommendations
Most of the proposed recommendations were directed at the Department of Family Services because Amelia was in protective care when she died in 2015.
The director of Family Services Jo-Anne Henderson White testified Thursday that the department had already made some changes as a result of Amelia’s death and was open to the recommendations.
In fact, she said the jury’s recommendations would help her advocate for the funding and support the department needs to make larger changes.
Henderson White created an incident report in the wake of the death that ranked the department’s priorities — the first of which was staffing.
She said the child services unit in Iqaluit now has two supervisors, as a supervisor testified in 2015 that she felt overworked and went on sick leave due to burnout. PREVIOUS STORY | Overworked and burnt-out: Social worker testifies at inquest into baby’s death
The unit also now has two family resource workers, who are employed to work with families with at-risk children to help prevent the children from being taken away from their parents and into protective care.
This shift toward prevention was a main theme of testimony over the course of the inquest and the first proposed recommendation deals with that issue.
It suggests to find a way to formalize communication between medical professionals with Nunavut’s Department of Health and social workers.
This advice was arrived at because it appeared Amelia’s mother made an effort to get her daughter to the doctor for regular checkups, but the burden of other factors including family violence, uncertain living arrangements and other stressors may have led to reaching a crisis point for the family.
Some other suggestions included training Family Services staff how to provide preventative support, as well as starting discussions to create a resource centre for families to access learning materials and relief. Pathologist suggests safe sleep training The pathologist, Dr. Christopher Milroy, who oversaw Amelia’s autopsy found the cause of death to be undetermined.He explained that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a collection of risk factors and not in itself a cause of death, as many infants exposed to the same factors do not die.Amelia, however, was exposed to at least two significant risk factors for infant death including exposure to secondhand smoke and she was left to nap on her stomach while in the care of a day home worker.Milroy said education for all parties in contact with children, including Family Services staff, foster families, day home workers and others, may help […]
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