Death of a disabled First Nations teen raises more questions about kids in care in Alberta

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 disabled man and has publicly released the results of the review as outlined under the Child and Youth Advocate Act.

Ernie was of First Nation descent and became involved with Child Intervention Services shortly after birth. He had significant disabilities and was dependent for his care.

Ernie had a strong and caring foster mother who advocated for him. When he turned 18, support services were transitioned from Child Intervention Services to the Persons with Developmental Disabilities program.

After his 19th birthday, Ernie was taken to the hospital three times because he was not feeling well. During the last admission, his breathing became rapid and he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit. He had exploratory surgery which revealed necrosis of both the small and large bowel. The surgeon ended the procedure and Ernie was returned to the ICU for palliative care. Ernie passed away the next day.

“This review highlights the importance of seamless transitions in service delivery between child welfare and adult disability systems, continuity of relationships and incorporating the voice of a young person in decision-making,” stated Del Graff, Provincial Child and Youth Advocate.  “It is my sincere hope that the recommendations arising from this review will be acted upon to improve services for Alberta’s children and youth.”

 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.

“There were a number of challenges for Ernie moving from the child welfare system to the adult disability system,” explained Graff in an interview with CBC News. “This review must result in meaningful change to improve services for young Albertans with disabilities as they transition from one system to another.”

“Disabled young people, they have views and they have a voice, and just because they can’t verbalize what their needs are doesn’t mean that they don’t have views,” Graff told CBC News. “And Maggie, (his foster mother) was the key person to help interpret what was working or not for Ernie, and at a couple of different points her views weren’t being considered.”

A copy of the Investigative Review and recommendations are available here

The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate is an independent office of the Legislature, representing the rights, interests and viewpoints of children and young people receiving designated government services.

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