Child aid worker was unaware of teen’s history of suicidal thoughts, inquest finds
A child protection worker told the coroner’s inquest on Tuesday that if she had known an Indigenous teenager she was caring for had a history of suicidal thoughts and self-harm, she would have tried to tell him. talk.
Kim Loiselle was the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society child services worker assigned to Devon Freeman from late 2016 until he became a Crown ward in June 2017.
The inquest heard that a residential program Freeman attended shortly before being taken into CAS care documented his suicidal thoughts, which included plans to hang himself.
Loiselle told the jury that she had not received any records from this program and that having this information would have made a difference in how she approached the 16-year-old.
Sometimes in tears during her testimony on Tuesday, Loiselle said she would have tried to address the issue with Freeman – particularly after learning he had attempted suicide after running away from the Lynwood Charlton Center group home in Flamborough in May 2017.
« I know I would have tried to talk to him about it (…) because then I would have seen a pattern of behavior, » she said.
The inquest heard Freeman disappeared from the group home on Oct. 7 and his body was found on the property more than six months later in April 2018. An autopsy determined he died by hanging.
Jurors heard that police were not made aware of Freeman’s suicidal ideation or attempted suicide when he was reported missing. No security issues were listed in the missing persons report, according to the investigation.
Loiselle said she was on vacation when the May incident took place and learned about it by reading the case notes in Freeman’s file when she returned in early June.
The inquest heard that Freeman had left the house without permission – something he did regularly – and when he returned a few days later he told staff he had tried to hang himself. The teenager said a friend intervened and shot him, jurors heard.
As a result, a plan has been put in place to monitor him more closely for some time, they heard.
A child services worker thought the suicide attempt was ‘an isolated incident’
Without knowing his story, and seeing the security plan in place, Loiselle said she thought it was « an isolated incident », noting that he « said he felt many hours later…and he still described feeling great. »
In late June, Freeman became a crown ward and Loiselle took her case to another CAS worker, she said. The three of them had a meeting to go over her chart and care plan, and the issue of suicide « didn’t come up, » she said.
« It’s a huge regret, » she said.
Loiselle broke down in tears on the stand as she shared some of her memories of Freeman, who she described as a « great kid » who was fun and polite. « He never let me open my own door, » she said.
« He always had aspirations, he always wanted to do better, but maintaining (what he had) was so difficult, » she said.
Freeman « knew what wrestling was like » and could empathize with others who were also struggling, often going out of their way to help, she said.
Earlier in her testimony, Loiselle said CAS first became involved with Freeman’s family after an incident with his grandmother and that he spent some time in foster care before moving to the Lynwood Charlton Centre.
Even if a family has been involved in child welfare for years, a new, separate record is created when a child comes into care, she said. Records that may be in the family file are not automatically transferred, and often those handling the child’s file don’t know what’s in there, she said.
Workers are « vigorously » requesting medical, school and other records from various agencies, but those documents can take months to arrive, she said.