Alberta’s Youth Advocate releases investigative review involving death of an 18-year-old

Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff

Edmonton…The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has completed an Investigative Review regarding the death of a young man and has publicly released the results of the review (in accordance with the Child and Youth Advocate Act).

Peter was a victim of a homicide. He was the subject of a Permanent Guardianship Order until he was 18 years old and then he refused further services. Peter passed away approximately nine months after child intervention involvement ended.

 Peter was of First Nation heritage. His family and community endured historical and ongoing losses and trauma. Many of these events can be traced back to the effects of colonization on Indigenous people. Peter struggled with addictions. Research has identified higher rates of substance use amongst young people struggling with trauma and loss. Although Peter showed periods of resiliency, he was unable to address the underlying causes of his addictions.

 “Peter’s story highlights the impact of trauma and loss on children, and transition planning for vulnerable and complex youth as they reach adulthood,” said Del Graff, Provincial Child and Youth Advocate.

“Peter was persistent in trying to stay connected with those he cared about and asked for help when his future was uncertain. Providing ongoing support to young people is essential to their success.”

In his report, the Advocate makes one recommendation and re-states recommendations that have been contained in previous reviews and is once again calling upon government to act on them. The intent of an Investigative Review is not to find fault with specific individuals, but to identify and advocate for system improvements that will help enhance the overall safety and well-being of children and young people who are receiving designated services.

In his report, the Advocate writes, “Through his actions, Peter asked for help many times; and, many times he voiced his anxiety about reaching adulthood without a plan, alone and unloved. Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that a young person has a right to an opinion and for it to be listened to and taken seriously. Peter’s voice was not heard and this may have contributed to him not wanting services beyond his 18th birthday.”

 For approximately 20 years the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has raised concerns about young people transitioning out of care. More recently in 2013, the Advocate released, “Where do we go from here? Youth Aging Out of Care Special Report” that speaks specifically to the challenges young people face when leaving government care and includes suggestions to ease that transition.

Along with this, several organizations and jurisdictions have made recommendations related to the effective transition of youth to adulthood. There is recognition that young people leaving the child welfare system are more vulnerable, have more complex needs and require specific resources. The best outcomes are achieved when youth have access additional programs and supports, have genuine connections to supportive adults in their community and have increased resources to help them become independent.

The Advocate writes that “he hopes that the Ministry of Children’s Services will continue to support a comprehensive program that helps vulnerable young people leaving care to succeed. A young person’s needs and risks are complex and need to be addressed holistically. Exposure to violence, significant deprivation and neglect can impact brain development with lifelong negative consequences.

“By turning our attention towards coordinated resource and service delivery, it is possible to close the gap between what is known and what is done to support young people. Children must be given the opportunity to not just survive, but to thrive.”

The Ministry of Children’s Services has adequate policies that speak to transition planning, concludes Graff. “They identify when planning should begin, areas that need to be addressed, supports required and how often the plan should to be reviewed and modified.

“Action must be taken to ensure that these policies are acted upon in a more consistent and thorough manner.”


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