26 children died while under province's protection since 2009
Child and youth advocate pushing for legislative change to be notified of deaths
Documents obtained by CBC News under Access to Information have revealed that more than two dozen children under the province's protection have died since the formation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Child, Youth and Family Services department in 2009.
According to the documents, 26 children and youth under the age of 18 have died while under the province's care — a number that has Carol Chafe, Newfoundland and Labrador's child and youth advocate, concerned.
Chafe said she knew about six of the deaths, but only learned of the other 20 when approached by CBC News.
In care - 3
Protective Intervention - 18
Youth Services - 3
Youth Corrections - 2
Cause of death
Medical event/condition - 8
Accidental - 12
Suicide - 6
"I was aware of some of the deaths but not all of them, but now that you have made that known to me, I have made a formal request for information on all of those cases," she said.
Of the 26 youth who died, three of the cases were children in foster care, 18 were receiving some form of protective intervention, three were involved with youth services, and the remaining two were with youth corrections.
Eight of the deaths were cited as being caused by a medical event or condition, 12 were accidental, and the remaining six were labelled as suicides.
Government is very clearly in this instance protecting itself.- Liberal MHA Dale Kirby
CBC News requested an interview with Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services Sandy Collins. His communications director said he is unavailable for an interview until later in the week.
Chafe said she will look into each of the case files in order to determine if a further investigation on her part is warranted.
'An absolute farce'
Liberal opposition member Dale Kirby says the government is protecting itself by hiding this information from the child and youth advocate.
"That government would release this, it's an absolute farce," said Kirby. "Government is very clearly in this instance protecting itself."
Kirby said he isn't suggesting government make personal and private information open to the public, but said government is "hiding behind black ink."
He added these kinds of incidents should be disclosed to the child and youth advocate automatically, rather than needing to be sought out.
"Why is the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador hiding from the child and youth advocate? That makes absolutely no sense, and that was not what was supposed to happen when that office was set up," said Kirby.
Pushing for legislative change
Chafe said the province isn't required to notify her about the death or critical incident involving a child or youth under the department's care, a rule she wants changed so she's aware of the incidents rather than finding out through the media.
"I think all the deaths should be reported to me, and/or any critical incidents of children and youth receiving government services, because then I can determine if there's something I need to look into further," she said.
"It doesn't necessarily mean when it does occur that it is something wrong that occurred, but as the representative for children and youth, I am the one that should have a look at that as an independent body to determine if it requires further investigation, or if there was something done that could be changed and prevented from happening again, which is the whole point when I do investigations."
Chafe said she hopes the revelation of the 26 deaths will help speed up the legislative change she's looking for.