Caseworkers not required to read full client files, fatality inquiry told

Caseworkers who dealt with troubled youth at an Edmonton group home where Kyleigh Crier killed herself two years ago were not required to read their client’s entire case file.

Caseworker did not know teen had made earlier suicide attempt when she took over her file

Kyleigh Crier, 15, hanged herself in an Edmonton group home in 2014. A fatality inquiry is looking into the circumstances surrounding her death. (Facebook)

Caseworkers who dealt with troubled youth at an Edmonton group home where a teen killed herself were not required to read their client's complete case files, a fatality inquiry was told Wednesday.

Under questioning by a judge, Michael Evancusky, a child and family services supervisor with the Alberta government,, said it was probably best practice for a caseworker to do so but he left it for staff to judge how much they needed to know about each client.

"I can't say I've directed them 'you must read this file from start to finish,' " Evancusky said.

The inquiry is looking into the death of Kyleigh Crier, 15, who hanged herself in the bedroom of an Edmonton group home in April 2014.

Evidence presented at the inquiry revealed Crier struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts and addictions.

Records at the group home showed Crier told staff she was being bullied by a another resident the month before she died.

Mary Robinson, the caseworker who took over Crier's file in May 2013, told the inquiry Tuesday that at the time, she did not know the girl had previously tried to take her own life 

Robinson said the information had not come up at a file transfer meeting and she had not done a complete review of the teenager's file.

Robinson said Crier's file would have taken some time to go through given that it contained five volumes, each about two inches thick.

Evancusky said he couldn't say whether reading a file in its entirety is required under policy when a case is transferred to another worker.

While he agreed that would be a big task, he acknowledged caseworkers could learn important facts about their clients.

"As far as best practice, I would be very interested in knowing the file history," he said, adding he would at least expect staff to do a "cursory review of the latest volume."

Girl showing improvement

With each caseworker handling on average 20 files, Evancusky said it was a demanding task for staff to be aware of them all while they are dealing with various crises.

However, he said none of his staff at the time complained about their workload.

Members of Crier's family have been in the courtroom for the inquiry. They were upset to hear certain details about her past weren't known by people involved in her care.

In the weeks leading up to her death, Evancusky believed Crier was making strides to improve her life.

While teen had ran away from placements and acted out in the past, Evancusky said she was behaving better and showing an interest in kickboxing.

"We thought things were good," he said.

The fatality inquiry is scheduled to continue to the end of this week.

Fatality inquiries in Alberta don't find any findings of legal responsibility but the judge can make recommendations aimed at preventing similar tragedies