Alberta teen dies in care

EDMONTON – A 14-year-old girl known to the child welfare system died on Dec. 19, just five days before Christmas.

She is the 13th child to die since July, according to figures released by the government earlier this year.

Human Services spokesman Mike Berezowsky did not release any additional details about the teen’s death, so nothing is known about who she was, how she died, or why.

“Any time a child dies, whatever the reason, it is certainly tragic for all involved,� Berezowsky said Saturday. “Our hearts go out to the family, especially this time of year.�

Berezowsky said the teen’s family is still deciding whether to apply for a publication ban, which would bar news outlets from publishing her name.

For more than a decade, Alberta had in place a sweeping publication ban that prevented government, media and families from publishing the names of children who were known to the child welfare system — regardless of the family’s wishes.

The Alberta government overturned that sweeping ban earlier this year and replaced it with a new law that says the child’s name is public unless the child’s family chooses to apply for a ban.

The new law frees the teen’s family to speak publicly about her death if it chooses, or to seek a publication ban to keep her name private.

The new law has also allowed Alberta Justice to start publishing the names of children who died before it was passed (so had not previously been named), and whose deaths in care will be subject to a public fatality inquiry.

Names made public for the first time on Dec. 17 include that of Braedan Dean Belcourt, a 16-year-old boy who died by suicide in 2012 and whose death was the subject of a report from the Child and Youth Advocate called Remembering Brian. A fatality inquiry into his death is scheduled for Feb. 12 in Edmonton.

Forthcoming fatality inquiries also include a hearing into the death of Anthony James Leadley, a 14-week-old baby found dead in his crib in 2011. A judge will also review the death of J’Lyn Michelle Cardinal, 4, whose aunt was convicted of manslaughter in connection with her 2011 death and sentenced to more than seven years in prison. Both inquiries will take place in the fall of 2015.

In the coming months, a judge is expected to issue a fatality inquiry report into the death of Fenton Cattleman, 16, who died after falling down the stairs at a house party in Maskwacis in 2011.

Inquiries that have been called but not scheduled include reviews of the deaths of three teens who died by suicide: Tylan Mason Poucette, 17, who died in Morley in 2008; Lissa Nanooch, 15, who died in Wabasca-Desmarais in 2013; and Kaan Onal, a 17-year-old Turkish boy who died in Peace River in 2012. Onal was the subject of a Child and Youth Advocate’s report called Kamil: An Immigrant Youth’s Struggle.

The Fatality Inquiry Review Board has also called an inquiry into the high-profile death of Kawliga Potts, 3, who died in 2007 after he suffered a head injury in foster care. His caregiver, Lily Choy, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison.

The death of six-week-old Dani Isabella Jean will also be subject to a fatality inquiry; she died on May 4, 2013 in her bed.

In its most recent rulings, the review board has ordered fatality inquiries be held in connection with the high-profile deaths of Kyleigh Crier, 15, and Nevaeh Michaud, 9. Crier died by suicide, while Michaud died in her sleep.

Both deaths garnered significant media scrutiny and both families have sued the province, alleging their daughters died due to negligence.

In the year ending March 31, 2014 — the last year for which statistics are available — 24 children died while receiving child welfare services. Of those, eight were in foster care, 13 were living at home while receiving intervention services, and three were over 18 and receiving supports.

kkleiss@edmontonjournal.com

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