New report details record number of children and youth deaths in Alberta government care
Posted Apr 16, 2022 11:24:02 AM.
Last Updated Apr 20, 2022 10:22:17 PM.
A new report is detailing 45 deaths of Alberta children and youth while in government care from April to February last year.
It’s a sharp increase compared to previous years and while the UCP is taking action, the NDP is calling for more transparency to fully address the issue.
“These are the children who are most vulnerable and are the responsibility of [the] government to keep them safe and protected,” said Rakhi Pancholi, NDP MLA and Children’s services critic.
A new report shows a record number of children and youth died while in government care in 2021.
The report released Thursday details the deaths of 45 children and youths in Alberta between April and February, compared to 36 before the year was over.
A major factor was the pandemic which led to online learning, social isolation, food insecurity, housing issues, and substance use.
There is also no evidence in this report that the ministry consulted with families, case workers, elders or Indigenous leaders. There is a severe over-representation of Indigenous children & youth in the child and intervention system, but this is completely ignored in the report.
— Rakhi Pancholi, MLA (@pancholi_rakhi) April 14, 2022
Pancholi says there was no mention of consultation with the families, and there was a disproportionate number of Indigenous children who died.
“There’s no mention in the report that these are children who are predominantly Indigenous – 80 per cent of the young people and children who have died over the last year are Indigenous,” said Pancholi.
“And yet there was no consultation that was done with the families, with Indigenous leaders or elders and I think that’s a glaring absence from the report,” said Pancholi.
The deaths were in those aged from birth to 23-years-old. There were 36 deaths from April to December of 2021, 20 were children and youth under the age of 17, while 16 were young adults aged 18 to 23.
This number exceeds the previous years, including 23 deaths reported from 2019 to 2020, and 30 were reported from 2020 to 2021.
When it comes to the causes of death in those under 18, four were accidental, three were natural, one was a suicide, and 12 were unconfirmed. Five accidental deaths were related to drug overdoses.
Alberta’s child and youth advocate says the government must address the opioid poisoning crisis in Alberta youth and has offered recommendations.
“And what we’ve heard from the advocate is that there’s been no progress made by this government in implementing that strategy,” said Pancholi.
Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz has committed to six actions to change this course including reviewing child intervention contracts.
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“There’s no mention of the fact that the government has a huge problem with their frontline caseworker workforce, burnout, turnover, high caseload numbers and that’s directly within the control of the government and there’s no mention of how they’re going to address that,” said Pancholi.
CityNews reached out to the Minister of Children’s Service for comment, but have not heard back at this time.
The report closes by saying that each death is a tragedy. And the actions being taken now will never take that away.
But it’s hoped the steps being taken now will make a positive impact moving forward.
Pancholi says there also needs to be more transparency so more can be done from outside the government.