In Alberta, there are too many children in the child welfare system and too many who are trying to take their own lives says the provinces child and youth advocate.
“One of the things we are quite concerned about with Indigenous young people is the number of people in care of the government,” said Del Graff. “They are vastly over-represented in Alberta.
“We’ve addressed that through a number of reports and we are pushing the government to develop a plan in concert with Indigenous leadership and communities to try to change that tide.”
Graff just released his 2016-17 annual report.
According to the reports, 69 per cent of the young people in the care of the province are Indigenous.
Last year his office made 12 recommendations to the Alberta government to reduce the number of Indigenous youth attempting suicide.
In Alberta, Indigenous young people are six times more likely to die by suicide.
One key recommendation is to work with First Nation communities to develop their own youth support system.
“Certainly a mechanism to enable Indigenous communities, in particular, to be able to attend to the needs of their youth members,” he said. “Through some type of suicide prevention plan – one that’s in the community, built by the community.”
Graff said the provincial government is moving slowly toward implementing his recommendations.
“From my point of view, they are not doing enough fast enough – but the fact that they are taking some action,” he said. “They are putting a framework together. They are trying to address those needs in Indigenous communities, it is an important development. It’s one we are quite pleased about.”
Graff said his office worked with the Alberta government on the Child Protection and Accountability Act which may become a law next year.
The law will allow the Advocate’s office the ability to review every death under 20 years old who were part of the child welfare system
The hope is that the number of children being taken into care, and the attempted suicides will drop.
“My office worked very hard to try to make it so that we can reduce the likelihood of trauma for young people that can lead to circumstances like them dying by suicide,” he said.