A private group home operator in Ottawa says it had a suicidal First Nations girl under “heightened supervision” when she took her life over two years ago according to recently filed court documents.
In fact, the company claims Amy Owen was alone in her bedroom for just 10 minutes before she took her life April 17, 2017.
“Mary Homes’ staff had interaction with Amy 10 minutes before she was found in her room …,” the company wrote in its statement of defence in response to a $5.5 million lawsuit filed by Owen’s family in April.
“On that last occasion departing staff saw her in the doorway of her room and had a brief discussion with her.”
Staff then tried to revive Owen once they found her lifeless said Mary Homes.
This drastically changes the time frame previously reported by APTN News based on the investigating coroner’s report made up in part from police interviews.
Dr. Dimitri Makropoulos determined Owen was left alone for approximately one hour.
“Ottawa Police and Forensic Identification detectives also attended the (group home) and interviewed group home staff,” wrote Makropoulos.
Owen’s family is also suing Tikinagan Child and Family Services, the agency that removed Owen from her home on Poplar Hill First Nation after she was sexually assaulted by someone not in her immediate family.
Tikinagan filed a statement of defence, like Mary Homes, denying responsibility for Owen’s suicide. However, both Tikinagan and Mary Homes filed cross claims pointing the finger at each other.
But it leaves the question, how long was Owen left alone?
The day Owen died there were three workers in the home according to Makropoulos’s report. A fourth worker was out picking up another child.
Makropoulos wrote Owen was “alive and well” at 2:45 p.m. in her bedroom.
“Amy Jane was checked on by a staff member approximately one hour later at 15:45 p.m., and was found hanging from the window frame,” wrote Makropoulos.
She was officially pronounced dead at 5:10 p.m. at hospital.
About a month before her death, Owen tried to die by suicide in her bedroom following previous trips to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa where she was admitted each time for several days for severe self-harming.
Then in the first nine days of April she was back at CHEO and would be four times for self-harm.
Makropoulos wrote that group home workers were aware of multiple incidents of self-harm and that Owen reported increased suicide ideation at the time and described a specific plan, noting that she had made an attempt “a couple of weeks ago”. As well, her best friend had recently died by suicide.
She was released in the afternoon of April 4 requiring treatment for self-harm.
Four days later, on April 8, she was back at CHEO for the same thing.
“She was subsequently assessed by a crisis intervention social worker … deemed not to have any active suicidal ideation, and was advised to follow-up with multiple available resources in the community,” said Makropoulos.
The next day Owen was back at hospital having harmed herself again. She denied any suicidal ideation.
“According to group home staff, Amy Jane continued to demonstrate aggressive and self-harming behavior and had been supposed to return to the higher-acuity crisis home … on April 13, 2017,” said Makropoulos.
But the home was found to have too many other high risk “clients” and the decision was made to keep Owen at the Wilhaven residence.
CHEO recommended two weeks before her death that Owen should be under strict supervision.
This issue was brought up by Tikinagan during the police investigation into her death.
“Amy Jane’s Tikinagan CAS worker did express concerns to Police about the lack of 1:1 supervision at the group home at the time of Amy’s death,” the coroner said.
The “1:1 supervision” means having a group home worker with Owen around the clock but Mary Homes said, according to the coroner’s report, it had difficulty arranging a 1:1 worker for Owen.
In its statement of defence, Mary Homes alleges Tikinagan never approved funding for the specialized supervision.
The Owen family is the second from Poplar Hill to sue Tikinagan over a child in its care dying by suicide.
Kanina Sue Turtle’s family is suing for $5.9 million after Turtle, 15, filmed her suicide in a foster home owned and operated by Tikinagan in Sioux Lookout Oct. 29, 2016.
The video shows she was left alone over 46 minutes before the sole worker in the home checked on her.
That home was still operating as of last year, while Mary Homes had to shutdown the Wilhaven residence.
It was recently put up for rent.
The Canada Suicide Prevention Service enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support using the technology of their choice (phone, text or chat), in French or English:
Phone: toll-free 1-833-456-4566