Edmonton

More Alberta children in care are referring themselves to advocate

Alberta kids are referring themselves to the province’s child and youth advocate at a higher rate, showing more young people are getting to know what the service is and does, the advocate says.

'They have a better understanding of what we do, the approach that we take and what we can do for them'

Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff says he wants to see the government act more stringently upon his recommendations to improve life for children in the province's care. (CBC News)

Alberta kids are referring themselves to the province's child and youth advocate at a higher rate, showing that more young people are getting to know what the service is and does, the advocate says.

In 2015-2016, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate helped a total of 2,535 young people through screenings, information gathering, and working on advocacy issues.

Of those, a full one-third referred themselves to the office, an increase of 17 per cent from the previous year.

"It's a fairly recent trend and it has to do with greater awareness of our organization," said Del Graff, the child and youth advocate.

"They have a better understanding of what we do, the approach that we take and what we can do for them."

Indigenous over-representation still a problem

The annual report from Graff's office lists the over-representation of Indigenous people served by the organization as a significant concern.

The report said young Indigenous people represent 58 per cent of the youth served.

Although the number is in line with the percentage of Indigenous representation in the child intervention system (59 per cent of cases), Graff said it is unacceptable.

"We are asking them to try to move the issue forward," he said of his recommendations to the provincial government earlier in the year.

His group completed a special report devoted entirely to issues of Indigenous youth.

More action needed

Looking ahead to next year, Graff said he wants stronger action from the government to improve the lives of children in provincial care.

He said he has made 56 recommendations since 2012, and has seen the government implement only 17 of them.

"We make recommendations based on systemic issues that arise from tragic circumstances," he said. "And I'd like to see the government act more stringently upon them."