Child advocate concerned about suicides of aboriginal youth in care

More than half of the deaths or cases of serious injury under investigation by the Alberta child and youth advocate this year involve aboriginal youth who attempted or died by suicide.
The annual report from child and youth advocate Del Graff was released this week. (CBC)

More than half of the deaths or cases of serious injury under investigation by the Alberta child and youth advocate this year involved aboriginal youth who attempted or died by suicide.

The advocate's annual report, released this week, says the office will complete 13 full investigative reviews this fiscal year. Eight of those cases involve aboriginal youth.

"This is cause for serious concern," the report from advocate Del Graff states.

As a result, the advocate's office plans to convene a committee of experts to examine the circumstances of the aboriginal youth, try to identify what contributed to their circumstances and make recommendations for change, the report adds.

The report also reveals an office that has too much to do with too little staff.

The advocate's mandate expanded in May 2014 to investigate cases of children who die or who are seriously injured up to two years after they receive child intervention services.

The change means the office looked at 71 cases of death or serious injury from Apr. 1, 2014 to Mar. 31, 2015, compared to 35 the day before.

The advocate doubled its investigative staff from three to six but that still isn't enough, the report says. While the increase has helped, more resources are required by the office"to effectively meet its investigative review mandate," the report states.

In December 2014, funding for the advocate was cut by $275,000 by the previous Progressive Conservative government. The money was restored by the NDP government in September.