OCYA Report: Children’s Services Minister Responds to Death of Three Indigenous Youth

Child and Youth Advocate releases investigative review involving deaths of three Indigenous youth

The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) has completed an Investigative Review involving the deaths of three young people and is publicly releasing the results of the reviews as outlined under the Child and Youth Advocate Act.

Over seven months in 2015, three young people of Indigenous heritage from different communities died: two by suicide, and one in an accident. Each one of them were receiving child intervention services when they passed away, or had received services within two years of their death.

“It is important that we explore the ongoing vulnerability of children who have been exposed to early childhood trauma and work quickly to identify opportunities for child-serving systems to find solutions,” said Del Graff, Provincial Child and Youth Advocate. “Government must take action on my recommendations so that young people in similar circumstances to those of Tina, Shirley and Jazmine can succeed and reach their full potential.”

Although Tina, Shirley, and Jazmine had unique life experiences, some common themes emerged. Their mothers’ abused substances and were unable to care for them, the girls experienced early childhood trauma through exposure to violence, addictions and neglect, and they had multiple caregivers.

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 the Investigative Review and recommendations are available on our website: ocya.alberta.ca/adult/publications/investigative-review/.

On April 26, 2016, the OCYA released “Toward A Better Tomorrow” chronicling the suicides of seven Indigenous youth. The report and its recommendations are available here: ocya.alberta.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/InvRev_Toward-a-BetterTomorrow_2016April.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.

Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee issued the following statement in response to the Child and Youth Advocate’s Investigative Reviews:

“We are saddened by the loss of these three young women, each of whom experienced significant grief and loss throughout their lives. Our thoughts are with those who continue to grieve for them.

“We thank the Advocate for highlighting the impact of trauma on child development. When we support children, youth and families who have lived through grief and loss, we must ensure those supports address the effects trauma has had.

“As these stories themselves make clear, for too many First Nations people, trauma, grief and loss are deeply rooted in their families and communities. This requires a coordinated response that focuses not only on the individual and immediate safety needs of young people, but on the broader realities of community trauma. We will work to ensure First Nations are supported to lead community responses to these realities.

“Our government will continue to focus our efforts to ensure that all of this important work happens in the spirit of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“We are currently implementing training to ensure that staff, as well as foster and kinship parents, are better equipped to support children and families dealing with grief and loss. This training helps them recognize the signs that a child is struggling with grief and loss, understand how this has affected the child and teaches them to help the child build resiliency.”