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Stronger coordination, engagement needed for youth with complex needs: Advocate

Alberta's Child and Youth Advocate, Del Graff, launched an investigation into the serious injury of a 16-year-old boy because he was receiving services from the province

Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff

The stabbing of a 16-year-old boy who had a turbulent childhood shows how the province needs to do more to support youth with complex needs, the province’s child and youth advocate said in a report.

Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff led an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the stabbing of Dillon, who was the subject of a permanent guardianship order.

Dillon had an unstable childhood, and had his first neurodevelopmental assessment when he was six. At an early age, Dillon was exposed to parental substance abuse and domestic violence. On numerous occasions, he was found wandering the community unsupervised. He was taken from home when he was 11.

The report notes that early childhood intervention is crucial for children with complex needs, as is coordination of services.

Based on that, the report recommends the ministries of Children’s Services, Health, Education and Community and Social Services should strengthen policies so information is shared and used to better coordinate plans for young people with complex challenges.

“There was extensive information from Dillon’s assessments that could have informed the development of a coordinated multi-disciplinary plan that began when he was young and continued throughout his life,” the report states.

The second recommendation calls for Child Intervention Services to develop a strategy to strengthen relationships with clients, with a focus on building long term networks for young people.

In Dillon’s case, the boy wanted to belong and needed a stable relationship with at least one adult, according to the report.

But from the age of six and up, Dillon has a number of placements and no sense of stability. He had involvement with Child Intervention Services, medical and educational professionals and police numerous times, but did not have a long-term stable adult supporting him.

“Children with complex needs often come to the attention of multiple service providers; however, these services are seldom well coordinated or effective over the long term despite the best efforts of caseworkers,” the report states.

The report notes that Dillon, now 18, has recovered from his injury, has joined a community support program and has a youth mentor helping him develop life skills and access services.

“He will need to continue to expand his connections as his needs are life-long and the program he is involved with has a time limited mandate. For young people with lifetime care needs, increased connectedness to natural supports and family is critical to decrease their dependence on formal systems.”

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