TORONTO, Nov. 9, 2015 /CNW/ - The inquest into the death of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson begins today after more than seven years of waiting. On August 3, 2008, Katelynn was found murdered, under horrific circumstances, in the apartment belonging to her legal guardian.
I learned about Katelynn's murder from a reporter a week after I began my role as Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. I was stunned and angry to learn about the brutal way in which Katelynn died and how so many points of protection seemed to have failed to protect her.
The Ontario Court of Justice approved the transfer of custody from Katelynn's biological mother to her friend. At that time, the legislation didn't require that criminal and children's aid society records of prospective caregivers be supplied to the court. Why? Not one, but two children's aid societies were involved with Katelynn's caregivers. Could they have done something differently? Staff at her school observed bruising on more than one occasion. In addition, Katelynn missed 60 days of school from January until June. Could the Toronto District School Board have done something differently? Still seven years later, we are left with the searing image of a beautiful child whose flame was brutally extinguished and the question that most of us asked at the time remains unanswered: how could this have happened?
I called for an inquest because we owe it to Katelynn and other vulnerable children to understand what has happened. Children like Katelynn - who through no fault of their own find themselves as victims of abuse or neglect – deserve our protection. In my mind, we – the province - failed to keep Katelynn safe and my worry is that others, like Jeffrey Baldwin, have died and others will die in the future. The death of even one child receiving child protection services is unacceptable. A copy of Katelynn's funeral program hangs framed over my office desk and serves as a daily reminder that we must do better for our vulnerable children.
During this inquest, my Office will keep Katelynn's voice "front and center" – not pushed to the periphery. We will work with a group of young people who know all too well, through their lived experience, the kind of things that Katelynn may have encountered in her life and the "services" she received or did not receive. These courageous youth will advise us on what my Office should be saying and doing as we participate. We will ask the difficult questions. I believe, and have seen, that when children are the focus our better angels can emerge and the opportunity for change can arise.
There is no doubt that Katelynn's inquest will be hard to witness. We must come around Katelynn and urge government, service providers, and the public to once and for all create the change that will allow us to do better by our children. We must have an open and frank conversation in this province about the way in which we protect children and support families. This conversation must involve others aside from the child welfare system itself. Let's allow Katelynn's inquest to be the first sentence in this important conversation. We can do better.
About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). The Provincial Advocate may identify systemic problems involving children, conduct reviews and provide education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children. The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement.
SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
For further information: Media Contact: Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth at (416) 325-5669 or Toll-free at 1-800-263-2841.