Immigrant teen's suicide focus of child advocate report
Social workers must learn about cultural background and history
Social workers dealing with immigrant children and youth need to assess their history and cultural backgrounds, Alberta's child advocate Del Graff says in his latest report.
Graff made the recommendation after investigating the suicide of “Kamil”, a 17-year-old boy originally from the Middle East, who was a ward of the Alberta Government.
The teen killed himself in 2012 after living in Canada for five years. “Kamil” is a pseudonym Graff uses to protect the boy’s identity under child welfare legislation.
Graff says it was known the teen had witnessed violence as a child in the Middle East, but social workers didn't do enough to learn more about his life there.
“We knew that he'd been exposed to some levels of violence that were pretty significant,” he said.
“But we didn't have much information about what was happening back there before he came to this country.”
Kamil struggled with learning English and adapting to a new culture, all while suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. He had six social workers over a four-year period.
He often made suicide threats and also threatened violence against people who tried to help him.
Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said the government is already working on the issues raised by Graff’s report.
“One of our new challenges, if you will, is to make sure that our child welfare workers are equipped to deal with that changing nature of our community and to understand the families they're serving,” he said.
“So that's an extremely important part of what we're doing.”
Hancock plans to study the report and its five recommendations.