New photos revealed of child who died in kinship care

The mother of a four-year-old Alberta girl who died in 2014 while in provincial care has released photographs of her daughter, taken days before she died.

"I was in a lot of shock," said the woman, who cannot be identified under provincial child welfare legislation so as not to identify her other children.

"I just basically took the pictures because, for some reason, I knew that I would need them later on."

She took the photos with her cell phone on Sept. 24, 2014, four days before Serenity died at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton.

Her phone was later damaged, which is why she hasn't been able to access the pictures again. Three weeks ago, she found someone who knew how to retrieve them. 

"It just brought me back," she said. "It was probably one of the worst times in my life."

The pictures show a gaunt child, lying in a nest of wires and tubes on a hospital bed. The once round-cheeked preschooler weighed about 18 pounds at the time, the typical weight of a 10-month-old.

A deep bruise contrasts the pale skin on her left leg. Serenity's mother said similar bruises covered her daughter's body and genitals.

'It's been a really long, harsh wait'

She shared the photos with RCMP, hoping to reinvigorate an ongoing investigation into Serenity's death. To date, no criminal charges have been laid in the case.

"I don't want her to be pushed to the back burner," she said. 

"It's been a really long, harsh wait but I'm just hoping something good comes out of it."

The newly released photographs sparked discussion in the Alberta Legislature on Thursday.

Opposition MLAs asked about charges being laid in the case, and whether staff at the Children's Services department have been held accountable for their roles in Serenity's placement.

Neither Premier Rachel Notley nor the children's services minister, Danielle Larivee, gave new information in their responses.

The investigation remains open, according to RCMP Cpl. Hal Turnbull. That file is being reviewed by the Crown and Turnbull said there is "no known date for when that will be completed."

'I will never stop'

After being placed in foster care in 2010, Serenity and her siblings were eventually transferred to a kinship care arrangement on a reserve. 

When relatives brought her to the hospital in 2014, she had suffered severe head trauma, was hypothermic, and covered in bruises.

Serenity was airlifted to hospital in Edmonton and removed from life support about a week later.

The Alberta medical examiner didn't complete its report on her death until two years later.

Serenity's mother, who regained full legal guardianship in the week before her daughter died, is still waiting for a copy of the autopsy report. 

She said she won't stop asking about what happened to her children in kinship care until she gets answers, especially about Serenity.

"She can't speak for herself, right?" she said. "I've fought for them from day one and I will never stop until I feel at peace."