Gateway Gazette

Child and Youth Advocate Releases Two Investigative Reviews Involving Two Deaths

The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has completed two Investigative Reviews involving the deaths of two young people and is publicly releasing the results of the reviews as outlined under the Child and Youth Advocate Act.

Onessa died by suicide when she was 17 years old. She had involvement with Child Intervention Services that ended approximately five months before her death. This review highlights the importance of protecting children from online sexual exploitation.

“I am extremely troubled by the number of young people who have died by suicide,” said Del Graff, Provincial Child and Youth Advocate. “Suicide is preventable and resources must be dedicated to act on this issue now. The impact of youth suicide on young people, on family and communities demands it.”

The second review concerned Netasinim, who died in an accident when he was 15 years old. He was the subject of a Permanent Guardianship Order when he died.

“Potential systemic issues were identified at the start of the review process, however our investigation concluded that services and supports provided to Netasinim and his family were appropriate,” said Graff. “There were still challenges facing this young person and recommendations from our latest special report are relevant in these circumstances.”

It is critical that all of the recommendations are acted upon by government, so that the experiences of young people, their families and communities, in circumstances similar to those of Onessa and Netasinim, are improved.

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.

A copy of both Investigative Reviews and recommendations are available on our website:

http://www.ocya.alberta.ca/adult/publications/investigative-review/.

The OCYA’s latest Special Report, “Voices For Change,” can be found here:

http://www.ocya.alberta.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/SpRpt_2016July_VoicesForChange_v2.pdf

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.

Minister of Human Services Responds

Minister of Human Services Irfan Sabir issued the following statement in response to the Child and Youth Advocate’s Investigative Review titled 15-Year-Old Netasinim:

“The death of this young person is a tragic accident and my heart goes out to those who knew and loved this youth.

“Whenever a young person receiving services dies, we carefully examine the circumstances to explore how we can improve our policies and practices to prevent similar tragedies. The Child and Youth Advocate is a valued partner in this work.

“While the Advocate has made no recommendations in this case, we are committed to ensuring that our child intervention system is responsive to the complex and diverse needs of children and youth.”

Minister of Human Services Irfan Sabir issued the following statement in response to the Child and Youth Advocate’s Investigative Review titled 17-Year-Old Onessa:

“It is a tragedy when a young person is lost to suicide. My heart goes out to those who knew and loved this young person. Our government recognizes that the rates of suicide for Indigenous youth are too high and we will continue to work closely across government, with Indigenous leaders and community partners to strengthen the way we support Indigenous children and families.

“We accept the Child and Youth Advocate’s recommendations and commit to carefully reviewing them as we explore necessary actions to address these issues.

“The sexual exploitation and abuse of children is a devastating crime. No child should have to experience violence, nor suffer silently as a survivor. Our government will continue to be there for children in need, ensuring supports are in place for those who need a place to turn for help.

“We have invested nearly $26 million across government to address sexual abuse and exploitation. This includes support for established child advocacy centres in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie, as well as the development of new centres in Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Lloydminster and Red Deer. Through these investments, we are working toward establishing a province-wide network of supports and services for youth in need. This is an important step, but we know there is much more that can be done.

“Human Services has accepted the Advocate’s recommendations from the Voices for Change report on Indigenous youth suicide, and is leading the co-ordination and drafting of the government’s formal response to all 12 recommendations, along with partners in Education, Health, Indigenous Relations and Alberta Health Services. The cross-ministry team is reviewing the report to explore opportunities for systemic improvement to the way we support Indigenous youth. This work includes the development of a Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, funding for research on Indigenous youth suicide and the development of a Cultural Understanding Framework.”

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