Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Final Report Calls for Greater Accountability

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The Alberta Child and Youth Advocate continues to call for more transparency and better coordination between government departments following the record number of deaths of children in government care in Alberta.

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In his final report after more than a decade of work, Del Graff said the government needed to do more to hold departments to account and that departments of health, education, and community and social services had needs better coordination, especially when it comes to supporting young people with intellectual and behavioral challenges.

“Along with other public processes and bodies, we are making recommendations in hopes of improving outcomes for young people in similar circumstances; however, without sufficient accountability from departments to act on the recommendations and make meaningful change for children, youth and families, the intent of the process is lost,” Graff wrote in the conclusion of his 113-page report, filed Tuesday in the Legislative Assembly.

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It is the largest report covering a six-month period his office has ever released.

He says departments should be required to provide regular public updates on what they have done to address past recommendations.

“There is a need for increased accountability to close the gaps and improve services and supports for young people in circumstances similar to those who died,” the report said.

“If ministries do not act, we will continue to see young people in similar circumstances experience similar service delivery outcomes.”

Graff’s latest report covers the period from April 1 to September 30, 2021. During this period, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate conducted mandatory examinations regarding 15 deceased youths.

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All 15 were between 12 and 19 years old. Five young people died of substance abuse problems, three committed suicide and three were victims of homicide. Three young people died of medical causes and one died in a car accident.

In his report, Graff discusses several cases where young people – all identified using pseudonyms – received early intervention supports when they were very young, but whose support waned over time as they were getting old.

“As these young people faced increasing difficulties in their daily lives, the child welfare systems involved struggled to meet their ever-changing needs,” he said.

When young people with intellectual and behavioral challenges lose connection with the education system, they often experience a lack of coordinated services, Graff said.

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While policies and practices exist regarding collaboration between the ministries of health, education, and community and social services, they must be consistently applied in order to serve young people well, the report says.

As part of writing its report, Graff held provincial town halls with participants from several departments and agencies.

“Frontline service delivery staff said they found staffing shortages and turnover to be
barriers to making connections and maintaining the relationships necessary for collaborative partnerships,” he said.

Graff also calls for proper training to ensure children’s emotional needs are met and reiterated the need for services for Indigenous youth that are informed by cultural considerations and foster connection.

Terri Pelton is sworn in next month as Alberta’s newest Child and Youth Advocate.

More soon

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