Home Youth service New report from Alberta Child and Youth Advocate details ‘alarming’ deaths of 15 youths

New report from Alberta Child and Youth Advocate details ‘alarming’ deaths of 15 youths


Many young people with complex needs do not receive adequate support and this must be rectified

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The deaths of 15 young people over a six-month period is “extremely distressing,” says Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate in a new report.

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The report, released Wednesday by Terri Pelton, stresses the need for ‘urgent action’ to close gaps in service provision following the deaths of 15 young people aged 6-19. Seven.

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Twelve youth were receiving child intervention services at the time of their death and three within the previous two years.

According to the report, many children and young people had complex needs that required cross-system support and, in some circumstances, services did not meet their needs or were unavailable.

“Many young people with complex needs do not receive adequate support and this must be rectified,” Pelton said in a press release. “We recognize that promising new initiatives are being developed; however, in the meantime, we need immediate action to close these service gaps and create better outcomes for these children and youth.

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  1. Outgoing Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff, left, with new Child and Youth Advocate Terri Pelton at the Alberta Legislature on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

    Alberta’s new child and youth advocate sworn in

  2. Del Graff, Alberta Child and Youth Advocate.

    Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Final Report Calls for More Accountability and Coordination in Face of Rising Deaths


One of the 15 children whose deaths are described in the report is six-year-old Rodney (all names are pseudonyms for confidentiality reasons). He is described as a loving and kind “little gentleman”. He loved to ride horses and wanted to be a cowboy and a firefighter when he grew up. Growing up, he witnessed escalating domestic violence, parental substance use, and mental health issues.

The worker found that at times his basic needs were not being met and his family had had a number of brief contacts with child intervention services. As a result, Rodney often stayed with relatives.

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During a family visit to their First Nations community, Rodney died in a house fire.


Gemma is described as a kind and confident First Nations transgender woman who loved fashion, modeling and makeup. She began to openly identify as a woman when she was 12 years old.

She was placed in a group home for four years. While there, the lawyer found that group care staff agreed but continued to use male pronouns to refer to her. She was later moved to another group home in her First Nations community.

A week after her 18th birthday, Gemma overdosed. She died in hospital with her family by her side.


Pelton recommends that the departments of Health, Education, Children’s Services, Community and Social Services, and Justice and the Solicitor General “develop and report publicly on a coordinated action plan to fill gaps in services for young people with complex needs while longer-term initiatives are being developed.”

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The plan should also include targets and milestones that meet the immediate needs of young people.

The Child and Youth Advocate also recommended that the province develop and implement an opioid and substance use strategy for youth. To date, no progress on the recommendation has been made, Pelton said.

In a statement, Children’s Services spokesman Dan Laville said the ministry will work with partners to review the advocate’s latest recommendation, while longer-term initiatives remain under development.

Laville added that several initiatives are underway to improve access for youth and young adults to mental health and addictions services, including new funding and a partnership between Children’s Services, Alberta Health and Alberta Health. Services to expand virtual opioid addiction program.

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He added that opioid and substance use training is mandatory for child intervention practitioners.

“With an increase in opioid and substance use, we recognized the need to provide staff training that focuses on the appropriate responses and the tools they need,” Laville said. “We will not stop in our work to make a meaningful difference. We are committed to continually improving our system to support the safety and well-being of children who receive child intervention services.

However, opposition NDP child services critic Rakhi Pancholi said there was no reason the UCP government had not heeded the call for a opioid and substance use strategy to date.

“This distracted government is costing children and young people their lives, and we need someone focused on taking these important recommendations seriously,” Pancholi said in a statement.

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