Alberta’s child and youth advocate leaves office with biting review

After nearly 11 years on the job, Del Graff is no longer Alberta’s child and youth advocate.

In an interview with Global News Thursday, Graff said he felt that after more than a decade in the position and 39 years of public service, it was time to take a break.

As one of his final acts in the job, Graff released a mandatory review of the deaths of 15 Alberta youth between April and September 2021.

Each of the youth who died had been involved with Child Intervention Services.

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“Claire was a creative Métis girl who loved to draw. She was a happy young person who was observant and mature for her age,” the review described a 12 year old who died from a suspected drug poisoning.

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Along with a description of each circumstance, the review proposed multiple systemic issues.

“The issues we have highlighted over the years are not new and are referenced in a number of reports and presentations to government,” Graff wrote in a summary.

Graff has worked under six different premiers from three different political parties and says all have failed to enact all the change that is needed.

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“There has been some level of consistency and things moving forward. We are not where we used to be, but we’re certainly not where we need to be,” he said.

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He warned that Alberta will only continue to see more youth die in care, especially from opioids and suicide.

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“There’s a suicide prevention plan in this province and we need to see… that fully implemented.”

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The public servant said he would prioritize more accountability from governments and wants to see them have to explain how and why they choose whether or not to act on the advocate’s advice.

Alberta Children’s Service’s Minister Rebecca Schulz argued there is already some information available.

“Our response and how we are addressing that is made publicly available on our website,” Schulz said.

“This is a new process that came out of the all party panel on child intervention that we follow to ensure that there is, in fact, accountability and transparency.”

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While Graff admits he would like to see more transparency and that he was often frustrated by the pace of progress, he is still confident in the future.

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“It’s challenging days, but I can tell you that I I remain optimistic and I remain hopeful,” explained Graff.

“Because I think that Albertans do want the best for children. And I trust and believe in that.”

Terri Pelton, who currently works in the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, will take over for Graff in April.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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