|Phoenix Sinclair (Sun Media files)
WINNIPEG - WINNIPEG -- A public inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair has heard testimony drawing out just how Child and Family Services workers used competing assessments of “risk” and “safety” in child-protection cases.
It’s an issue identified as a serious one influencing how the little girl slipped through the cracks of the provincial CFS system and wound up horrifically abused and murdered at age five by her mother and her mother’s live-in boyfriend.
“Safety assessments tend to look at immediate risk and immediate safety,” former Winnipeg CFS supervisor Angela Balan told the inquiry Tuesday. “A risk assessment will look at certain overall features, a more comprehensive picture.”
Balan said safety assessments were usually done when a call for service came in through a CFS intake unit and a report was sent up the chain for followup service by a worker. The assessments were done by checking a box on a form stating how quickly intervention was required.
Several workers who touched Phoenix’s file have testified that at the time of their involvement, their perception, based on the information they had, was that she was in a “low-risk” situation.
It wasn’t until after the little girl was seized by CFS a second time in June 2003 that social worker Laura Forrest put all the available case information together and determined it was exactly the opposite.
In Phoenix’s case, the confusion led to a finding her child-protection file was closed a number of times without “adequate intervention,” according to an internal review after her murder was discovered in 2006.