No sign teen was on downward spiral before suicide, social worker says
Before her death, Kyleigh Crier shared a dream of seeing the world
Kyleigh Crier seemed to be making strides and appeared excited about the future before her suicide, a social worker who had formed a bond with her, told a fatality inquiry Thursday.
Rejena Miles wiped away tears as she shared details of her time working with Crier in the six months before her death in an Edmonton group home.
"It makes me feel very, very sad," Miles said. "It makes me feel like I didn't see things that I needed to see, because I felt that I saw that she was doing better than she actually was."
Crier, 15, hanged herself while living at Crossroads House in April 2014.
While Miles figured out very quickly Crier was carrying a "deep sadness," she told the inquiry that the more time she spent time with her, the more hopeful Crier seemed about her future.
At the time, Miles was a social worker with the non-profit agency iHuman, which takes an arts-based approach to helping at-risk youth.
The two had been connected by someone close to Crier and it was Miles who helped the teen make contact with Crossroads where she ended up staying.
'Sadness didn't seem to be as intense'
"She wanted to go to Chicago. She wanted to travel. She wanted to see the world," Miles said.
While the teen had complained of bullying in the group home, Miles recalls Crier talking about the staff as if they were family and saying she was always excited to meet new friends.
Crier was also showing an interest in getting involved in activities like boxing, another sign Miles thought revealed a growing confidence.
"I thought her mood had improved," she said. "The sadness didn't seem to be as intense."
The inquiry has heard evidence Crier was struggling with depression, substance abuse, suspected fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.
In spite of her many challenges Miles said Crier was a loving teenager.
"She gave great hugs. She liked hugs. She needed hugs," Miles recalled. "Her favourite colour was blue. She loved all shades of blue."
Miles, who no longer works with iHuman, but remains involved in social work, is hoping the inquiry makes recommendations that will lead to better information sharing about children in care.
She said she has run into barriers getting access to files of those children.
Earlier in the inquiry, Crier's caseworker testified she wasn't aware the teen had made a previous attempt on her life when she took over her file.
"If we're really going to support the youth and prevent — as much as one can prevent — anything like this from happening, we need to have all the information," Miles said.
'System failed her'
Kyleigh Crier's aunt Chantel Buffalo gave Miles a hug on the way out of court to thank her for all she did for the teenager.
Buffalo said it has been disheartening to hear the details that have come up in court.
"I constantly think of her smile and her laugh and she isn't here any more because the system failed her," she said.
The inquiry continues Friday and will sit for two more days in December.
Fatality inquiries cannot make findings of legal responsibility, but the judge is able to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar tragedies.