Canada Advocate reviews 5 years of investigations into child deaths, injuries

21:53  15 january  2018
21:53  15 january  2018 Source:   Edmonton Journal

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More supports are needed for Alberta children and their families after child intervention services end, the province’s child and youth advocate says after reviewing investigations into deaths and injuries from the last five years.

“One of the things that drove the writing of this report was the need to take a step back and ask what have we learned,” Graff explained Saturday.

The report released Monday included data on 252 reported deaths or injuries of children and youth between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2017. Of those cases, 156 were actively receiving child intervention services and the remaining 96 had received services within two years.

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Review of these reports has impressed upon The Child Advocate and the OCA staff the im-portance of When both the OCA and law enforcement conducted an investigation into a child ’s death , OCA staff coordinated Injury -related deaths occurred in six children and youth aged nine to 17 years .

Nearly 60 per cent of the reported deaths were due to medical or accidental reasons, which is consistent with national statistics, the report noted.

But 21 of the deaths were attributed to violence, with data highlighting the heightened risk for children under six years old, who accounted for more than 40 per cent of those cases.

“Infants are at an increased risk of violence during their first year due to their physical vulnerability and the presence of stressors experienced by parents or caregivers,” the report said.

Other causes of death included suicide, while some cases were undetermined or pending investigation.

Graff emphasized that when children are apprehended at a young age, it can hinder parent-child bonding which can then cause difficulties when children return home.

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An understanding of the biomechanics provides the radiologist insight into the two types of injury patterns observed. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of in - jury -related deaths in the United States, accounting for more than 600 deaths each year in children under the age of 5 years (1). In

“When there is that lack of attachment and an infant goes into care … return to home (is) where we would see consistently see a struggle,” he said in an interview, noting that transition planning can help alleviate those pressures.

It improves long-term outcomes and provides children with a sense of stability, the report noted.

“The need for information sharing is just so critical … particularly when you’re dealing with families with complex needs and they have multiple (agencies),” Graff said, pointing to the work of Alberta’s all-party child intervention panel as a step in addressing this issue.

The panel was set up after the death of Serenity, a four-year-old Indigenous girl who died after receiving care. In October, the panel extended its timeline to make recommendations on how to improve child intervention in the province.

Graff’s report pointed to continued gaps in communication among agencies — “workers often have to make decisions with incomplete, inaccurate or conflicting information.”

It also included data on 35 reported suicides, 25 of which were Indigenous youth, emphasizing the need for suicide prevention strategies.

“It is imperative that Indigenous young people feel connected to their culture, community and have a strong sense of identity,” the report said.

Graff stressed that the 252 notifications forming the basis for his review are the “extreme end of the continuum.

“For the most part … child intervention protects children from harm … in the thousands,” he said.

cclancy@postmedia.com

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