November 26, 2012
CFS worker didn't check out those caring for little Phoenix
By James Turner, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - WINNIPEG -- Even as Phoenix Sinclair's home life grew increasingly volatile, to a point she was spending large amounts of time being cared for by her father's friends, a Winnipeg Child and Family Services (CFS) worker said she didn't actively investigate those people to ensure the little girl's safety.
Instead, Delores Chief-Abigosis said Monday, Steven Sinclair's seemingly open and forthright answers to questions she asked him in one of their rare face-to-face meetings in July 2001 was good enough for her.
At that time, Sinclair's relationship with Phoenix's mother, Samantha Kematch, was on the rocks in the wake of domestic-violence and booze-abuse allegations.
The family appeared to be escalating in risk, Chief-Abigosis told Commissioner Ted Hughes, who is presiding over the ongoing inquiry into Phoenix's 2005 murder and the role CFS played in her life.
Sinclair, then just 21, was tasked with looking after the couple's two-month-old infant and Phoenix, then just over a year old, after Kematch split.
Phoenix was spending many days in the care of Sinclair's good friend Kim Edwards by that point.
"I've never met Kim Edwards," Chief-Abigosis told commission counsel Derek Olson.
"Did you know anything about her at this point?," he asked.
"All I knew is that (she) was a friend of Steve's and that she provided a lot of support to him," Chief-Abigosis replied.
She later added she was confident in Sinclair's capacity to care for the kids based on "very caring and very open" responses he gave during one of their few meetings over the nine months she was on the file.
"Weren't you also responsible to ensure that Phoenix is safe and to take some steps to do that at this point knowing what you knew about the family?" asked Olson.
"Yes," she bluntly replied.
Chief-Abigosis was put on the child-protection file involving the little girl on Nov. 14, 2000.
Her file notes indicate she didn't see the family until the following February. By late April, she was told by phone that Kematch, a young woman with an extremely unstable background, had given birth to another child -- the third pregnancy of her life she had concealed.
By the end of July, Chief-Abigosis had quit Winnipeg CFS in the wake of the baby's sudden death.