Staring down at her child’s tiny hospital wristband, the mother of a newborn girl whose apprehension into care was streamed lived on Facebook spoke out about her pain during an emotional press conference Friday morning.
The mother, who can’t be identified because her child is currently in care, said she was “blindsided” by the apprehension by Winnipeg Child and Family Service because she said she had made arrangements to have her aunt take over guardianship of her baby.
“It’s a huge letdown,” she said.
The baby was picked up around 4 p.m. CT Thursday, the family said. The widely viewed Facebook video prompted a First Nations family advocate to hold the news conference Friday morning.
Watch a portion of the video of the apprehension shared live on Facebook:
Melanie Ferris, communications officer for the First Nations Family Advocate Office at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said the baby girl was two days old when she was seized Thursday by Winnipeg CFS.
Her mother, 38, is living in Winnipeg and a band member of Garden Hill First Nation, Ferris said. The man filming the video is her uncle. Another woman in the room is her aunt.
Debbie Besant, CEO of the General CFS Authority, which oversees Winnipeg’s Child and Family Services, said in an email that she had “personally” reviewed this file and met with the agency staff involved.
“I am confident in the decisions made. We will continue to work with this family, and engage with any collateral or partner agencies the family wishes to involve,” she said.
‘I’m still hopeful’
Cora Morgan, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs First Nations family advocate, said the family had been in touch with CFS prior to the birth to make arrangements because they suspected the agency might have concerns with the mother. The mother was looking for help with parenting skills and addiction issues, Morgan said.
But when the mother arrived at the hospital via ambulance to deliver, a CFS worker told her that the baby had to be apprehended then because someone said she was intoxicated when she arrived at the hospital, Morgan said.
With a blanket reading “Bring our children home” behind her during Friday’s press conference, the mother she’s still hopeful that she will be reunited with her child.
Watch a portion of Friday’s press conference here:
“When I was holding my baby, she was keeping me content, strong, focused,” the mother said.
“I’m still hopeful things will work out in positive way.”
In the Facebook video, which the post says was filmed in a room at Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital, the baby girl is cradled by her mother, seated on a hospital bed and surrounded by sobbing family members.
“I’ll make it better for you,” the crying mother said to her baby at the beginning of the video. “You deserved much better.”
Police insist the baby has to be taken away. The family asks if they can have more time to say goodbye, if they can wait until other workers arrive, whether a family member can take the newborn and when the mother will be able to visit her again.
As of 8 a.m. Friday, the Facebook video of the baby being seized had been seen roughly 325,000 times.
‘So full of worries’
Several of the newborn’s family members spoke out about the incident at Friday’s press conference. At times, the newborn’s grandmother held up photos of her
“When I was trying to sleep, I would see her face,” the new mom’s aunt said at the morning news conference, a day after the baby was “apprehended,” a term used by CFS.
“I was so full of worries. Is she eating? Is she crying?”
The mother’s uncle, who took the video, held a pair of feathers in his hand tied together with beaded string as he spoke. He said the feathers were together just like he hoped his niece and her baby will be soon.
“I know this,” he said.
As of Friday morning, the baby is not back with the family, according to the First Nations Family Advocate Office at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Const. Tammy Skrabek of Winnipeg police said officers are sometimes called to assist CFS workers with apprehensions of newborns and young children. She said the family knew the baby would be taken ahead of time.
The baby was taken in the care of CFS to another area of the hospital, she said.
A spokesperson for the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth said the office is aware of the incident and reviewing the video.