November 22, 2012
Phoenix Sinclair called strangers 'mom'
By James Turner, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG -- There's a few things about Phoenix Sinclair that stuck out to Kim Hansen as she and her Child and Family Services (CFS) colleagues seized the three-year-old from her father's home out of fear it wasn't safe.
But the most telling was how the well-behaved little girl kept calling every woman she saw "mom" despite being total strangers.
"She was calling me 'mom' the entire time," Hansen told an ongoing inquiry into Phoenix's death on Thursday.
"When they took her to (an emergency hotel-room placement) she was calling the caregivers there mom," Hansen said.
"To me that just shows that there's no consistent care provider -- it's a lack of attachment," she told inquiry Commissioner Ted Hughes. Phoenix's mother, Samantha Kematch, in concert with boyfriend Karl McKay, would end up brutally abusing and murdering the girl in 2005.
CFS's June 23, 2003, apprehension of Phoenix marked the second time in her brief life she was placed in care.
A few days later, social worker Laura Forrest would sit down with all available information about her case and deem it to be "high risk," a finding contrary to what some of her social-work colleagues had believed in the past.
CFS workers in the after-hours emergency unit went four times to Steve Sinclair's home in the two days before Phoenix was seized, prompted to go there by an anonymous call about a drinking party and claims Phoenix wasn't being cared for appropriately.
Hansen said CFS initially offered help to Sinclair to sober up and keep a safe home, but that just wasn't happening. Concerns also were raised about who the young dad was hanging out with.
"I just thought that was enough," Hansen said. "There's gang members in the home (and) you've got a little child of three with gangs and violence and drugs and weapons, and no one really seems to be taking care of her."
It was the first time in nearly two years a CFS worker had physically seen Phoenix.
That's despite Forrest trying five separate times over a period of three months to locate the girl -- admittedly only by visiting Sinclair's home, citing a heavy caseload and lack of information Phoenix was in need of protection.
Forrest was put on the case after Phoenix was brought to hospital in February 2003. Concern was raised about her well-being and if Sinclair would ensure she took her antibiotics.