Alberta watchdog reports record number of child deaths in state care

Terri Pelton
Terri Pelton Courtesy Legislative Assembly of Alberta

The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) said it conducted two mandatory investigative review reports about the deaths of 33 young people in state care in Alberta. 

“This year, we saw the highest number of notifications of death of young people since our office received the mandate to conduct investigative reviews in 2012,” said Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Terri Pelton in a Tuesday press release. 

“This is profoundly concerning and underscores the importance of ensuring our recommendations are implemented to help improve services and supports for vulnerable young people.” 

In 2022, the OCYA said it released its mandatory reviews into child deaths from 2021 to 2022 that reviewed the circumstances of 15 young people and made one new recommendation to Alberta Health; Education; Children’s Services, Community, and Social Services; and Justice and Solicitor General. 

In March, it said it released its mandatory reviews into child deaths in 2022 that reviewed the circumstances of 18 young people and made two new recommendations to Alberta Children’s Services. 

The OCYA acknowledged a systemic review is completed when a young person who does not meet the criteria for a mandatory review suffers serious injuries or passes away. 

In 2022-2023, it said it received 88 notifications of serious injuries or death. Of the 88 notifications received, 44 met the criteria for a mandatory review and 44 led to a systemic one. 

The most common age range for the deaths being reviewed was 12 to 17 years old (34%). 

After 12 to 17 was 18+ (31%). This was followed by 0 to 5 (23%) and six to 11 (12%). 

Three-quarters of the deaths were indigenous. One-fifth were non-indigenous and 6% were unknown. 

Of the 88 notifications of serious injuries and deaths reported to the OCYA in 2022-2023, it said seven young people had serious injuries and 50 died while receiving child intervention services. It added the remaining 31 young people who had passed away received child intervention services within two years and were not included in the placement data. 

When it came to the deaths of children receiving intervention services, the most common placement of those who died was independent living (18). 

After independent living was parental care (14). This was followed by kinship care (six), foster care (five) and group care (four). 

The Alberta government said in 2022 the safety and well-being of children and youth is its number one priority, as new cases of intervention decreased over the last year.

READ MORE: New cases of child intervention decrease in Alberta, 70% of total are indigenous

The number of total new cases decreased by about 22% during 2021-2022 compared to the previous year.

“Bringing a child or youth into care is always the last resort,” said former Alberta Children’s Services spokesperson Andrea Farmer.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Western Standard