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Alberta Foster Suicide
November 27, 2014 permalink
Alberta's Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff has released 15-YEAR-OLD TONY – An Investigative Review, available in a local copy (pdf). It is about a boy without a name, Tony is only a pseudonym. He hanged himself. Graff does not say when or where, only that it was somewhere in Alberta in the autumn of 2012. A news report from the CBC continues to keep him anonymous.
In a second enclosed report the Edmonton Journal dignified him with a name, Tyrell Darc Skylar Raine, and location, Slave Lake Alberta. The boy was put on the path to suicide with prescriptions for psychotropic drugs, Celexa, Seroquel, Zyprexa and Risperidone along with the anti-seizure medication Topamax.
Child Advocate calls on province to take 'meaningful action'
Del Graff calls for action after investigating suicide of a 15-year-old aboriginal boy
Alberta’s Child Advocate is calling on the province to take “swift, decisive and meaningful action” after conducting an investigation into the death of a 15-year-old aboriginal boy in government care.
The boy — referred to in the report by Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff as “Tony” — was found unresponsive in 2012, hanging in the playground beside his group home. He died in hospital two days later.
“Although attempts were made to keep Tony connected to his family, and his First Nation community, it was not enough,” Graff wrote.
Graff made three recommendations in his report, including that the Ministry of Human Services require a suicide risk inventory be completed for all young people in its care — at all times, and not just at the point of crisis.
"It is the only way that change will happen.”
‘Always smiling and joking’
Tony first entered government care when he was 10-years-old.
“Many remembered him as a ‘cute kid’ who was always smiling and joking,” the report said. “He loved sports, rap music, drawing and camping in the bush.”
The boy suffered from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Although he experienced academic delays, the report said younger children looked up to him. He was even the president of the student council in junior high school.
Over his five years in care, he was moved 13 times and had eight different caseworkers. The report says he tried to harm himself at least four times and that “it was apparent that his intent was getting stronger.”
When he was 13-years-old, Tony was placed closer to his home community so he could have more contact with his family. However, the report says that within two weeks he had damaged property, left without permission and threatened staff.
At age 14, his grandfather — with whom Tony lived with before being placed in government care — was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Tony began running away from the home shortly after. A week after he turned 15, he assaulted a staff member. He was arrested and held in custody overnight.
Tony was last seen leaving the group home with a shoelace in hand after an argument with his girlfriend. He was found hanging in the playground shortly after.
'Intervention system must change'
Graff’s investigation found there are systemic issues hampering the child intervention process.
“Tony’s experiences and his death by suicide contains a clear and compelling message that the child intervention system must change,” Graff wrote. “There are other young people like Tony. We must not wait any longer.”
The report said the government must ensure aboriginal children in care maintain relationships with their families. In this case, Graff said Tony did better in placements that "connected him to his culture and shared traditional teachings with him."
Graff also said that while Tony had made several improvements throughout his time in government care, the gains could have continued if information had been shared between care providers.
"A direct dialogue between a child's previous and future caregivers would enable those who are going to care for a child to benefit from the insights and experiences of those familiar with the child," Graff wrote.
Teen suicide report urges systemic change
Tyrell Darc Skylar Raine was just 15 years old when he walked out of the White Buffalo Healing Centre, tied a shoelace to a piece of playground equipment, and hanged himself.
Two young residents found him there and he was rushed to a hospital in Slave Lake, then airlifted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. He could not be saved.
On Wednesday, Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff published an investigative report into Raine’s death, and issued three recommendations to prevent similar deaths in future.
He said front-line caregivers must do more to encourage meaningful relationships in the lives of aboriginal children in care and that they must do a better job of sharing information about what works with each child. He also said suicide risk assessments should be required on a regular, ongoing basis — not just when a child is in crisis.
Raine’s suicide, he said, “was not an isolated, impulsive event.
“During his last four years, he attempted suicide at least four times. … Caregivers informed caseworkers of his suicide attempts. Looking at these incidents together reveals a pattern of attempts following periods of stress and uncertainty.”
Graff’s report — which uses the pseudonym “Tony” instead of the boy’s real name — paints a heartbreaking picture of a young man who was losing his beloved grandfather to a terminal illness while being moved to 13 different homes over five years.
He was on three drugs to control violent outbursts associated with exposure to alcohol in the womb and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
After he died, workers found his writings, which revealed suicidal thoughts.
Human Services Minister Heather Klimchuk stopped short of saying the province would formally accept the recommendations.
“With respect to these recommendations, of course we’re going to look at them and most definitely get back to the advocate,” Klimchuk said.
“An investigation means we can look for outcomes together. It’s not about assigning blame, its about working together. … My sense is they’re very valid recommendations.”
Wildrose critic Jeff Wilson said the report “highlights the need for this government to start implementing and tracking recommendations (Graff) has been making.
“Whatever they’re doing, it quite frankly isn’t working,” Wilson said.
Tyrell Raine’s mother, Rosanne Tracy Raine, said while she’s happy the report might prevent future deaths, losing her son has been “very, very hard.
“I would not wish that upon any other mother ... it’s the hardest thing I ever went through,” she said Wednesday.
The last time she spoke to her boy was four days before his death. They argued because he wasn’t taking his medication, but she called him the next morning.
“I said everything is OK, things will be fine. I still love you.”
She never spoke to him again.
Source: Edmonton Journal