Foster father charged with criminal negligence in death of baby boy

A man has been charged after the foster child he was taking care of died this week, Winnipeg police say.

The 22-year-old man was charged with criminal negligence causing death after his 10-month-old foster child died in hospital on Tuesday.

The baby boy suffered head injuries before being rushed to hospital in critical condition, Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver said Thursday at a news conference.

Carver wouldn't say who took the infant to hospital or whether the foster parent and child are biologically related.

"The protocol within the hospital is if one of the medical professional sees what they believe are injuries that could raise flags or are consistent with potential abuse, Winnipeg police are contacted and we send out the child abuse unit," Carver said.

"I can't say what investigators suspect. I can tell you that the evidence that's in front of us at this point merited this charge," Carver said. "There's certainly a potential that the charge could be changed or additional charges could be laid."

Carver said the name of the accused is not being released to protect the identity of the child. The man was taken into custody.

A provincial spokesperson said this is an active police investigation and the government is restricted from releasing details under the Child and Family Services Act.

"If a young person receiving services from a Child and Family Services agency dies and there is a criminal investigation, the criminal investigation does take precedence over other reviews," the Department of Families spokesperson wrote in an email.

Death 'heartbreaking'

Manitoba Minister of Families Scott Fielding called the death "heartbreaking."

"We are very concerned about the death of a vulnerable child," Fielding said in a statement.

"Until we find out all the facts and circumstances, we can't say much more about this horrible situation."

The agency involved will "immediately" conduct its own internal review, Fielding said.

"We trust they will co-operate with the criminal investigation that is underway," Fielding added.

Children's advocate investigating

At the news conference, Carver remarked that he was initially surprised to learn the foster father was only 22 years old.

Under Manitoba's Child and Family Services Act, the only age requirement to be a foster parent is that candidates are over 18.

Every prospective foster parent is supposed to undergo criminal and child abuse registry checks as part of the vetting process under the act.

Carver would not say whether the accused and victim are related.

"I know when we unfortunately have to bring children into care, the first place we look is to family, or community as well," said Sandie Stoker, executive director of the Winnipeg-based Child and Family All Nations Coordinated Response Network.

She said in Manitoba, "kinship homes" represent cases where a family or community member has passed the vetting process and is entrusted with fostering a child.

"We need to assess that they have the capacity to provide care for children, which would be not only the physical capacity but to meet their emotional, mental [and] spiritual well-being that's unique to each family."

Manitoba's Office of the Children's Advocate will be conducting a review of the case, Fielding said.

This will be the first investigation into a child's death for Daphne Penrose, who was appointed as the provincial children's advocate in April.

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