Last week, Alberta’s ministry of Children’s Services released their latest update to their “Deaths of Children, Youth and Young Adults Receiving Child Intervention Services” report.
I thought I’d present the data.
First, the total number of deaths of young people who were at the tail end of intervention between April 2021 and March 2021.
This past year, Alberta saw the largest number of young people die while in care during this reporting period. Plus, it’s also the largest number of deaths going back to at least 2008–2009.
Not only that, but the 3 previous years had high numbers of deaths, relative to other years.
The average number of deaths during this period was 28.4. There have been 5 years since 2012–2013 where deaths were above that average, most of which were in the last 4 years.
In the first quarter of the 2021–2022 budget year (April–June), Alberta has already seen 10 deaths. If this death rate continues for the remaining 3 quarters, the number of deaths this year may hit 40.
Next, here’s how the deaths break down by intervention:
According to the report, initial assessment refers to the period when families are assessed to determine if intervention is required and what that that intervention would look like.
In care means children who’ve been placed outside of their home in such situations as kinship homes, foster homes, group homes, or treatment facilities. The placement can be temporary or permanent.
Not in care refers to children who remain at home while the family receives services to resolve matters of concern.
For over 18, young adults aged 18–24 who were previously involved in child intervention can receive support to help them become independent.
The above graph shows an interesting trend: deaths have significantly increased for youth 18 through 24.
For the first 5 years of this reporting period, these youth, on average, accounted for 9.7% of the deaths of young people under intervention. That changed in 2017/18, halfway through the NDP’s term, when it passed the 20% mark 2 years in a row.
During the first year of the UCP administration, deaths of 18+ youth passed the 30% mark, and last year, they passed the 40% mark. During the first quarter of this year, this demographic made up 40% mark again.
The next largest demographic has been those who have only had the initial assessment but who haven’t been assigned services or support yet. This group has oscillated between highest and second highest proportion of all young people deaths.
During the early years of the NDP’s administration, those who’ve had only their initial assessment not only made up highest proportion of total deaths of young people under intervention, but there were more deaths among this group than all the others put together.
If we compare this chart to the previous one, we see that as deaths among the 18–24 group has risen, relative to the total number of deaths, deaths among this group have decreased.
There have been over 260 deaths of young people under intervention in Alberta since 2012–2013. Here’s how those deaths break down by type.
The single largest type of death was accidental, which made up 21.8%, followed by suicide, which was at 17.8%.
Surprisingly, a large number of deaths had no cause assigned to them. For example, 16.8% of them went uninvestigated, 14.1% had undetermined causes, 12.2% still have causes pending (some of them 6 years old), and 1.1% are unclassified.
If you add those all up, that’s 44.2%. Nearly half of the deaths over the last 9 years and a bit have no causes assigned to them.
When we look at just those with assigned causes, this is what it looks like.
We see that deaths attributed to accidents make up 2 out of every 5 of the deaths specifically assigned a cause. Suicide came in at about 1 in 3, natural causes 1 in 5, and homicide 1 in 10.
If we look at the data by ethnicity, we see that Indigenous youth make up 3 out of every 5 deaths over this 9-year period.
According to the 2016 federal census, Indigenous people made up less than 8% of the general population of Alberta. Yet their representation among deaths of young people under intervention is more than 7 times that rate.
Plus, 2017–2018 was the only year when non-Indigenous young people made up a larger share of the deaths in a year.
Not only that, but as we see in the chart below, Indigenous young people outnumber the non-Indigenous ones at every cause of death:
And the discrepancy between the two groups, how many more Indigenous deaths there were compared to non-Indigenous:
Indigenous young people under intervention are twice as likely as non-Indigenous young people to die by homicide, 1.8 times as likely by natural causes, 1.56 times by suicide, and 1.28 times by accident.
Now, keep in mind that as of 2020–2021, 64% of the people in child intervention were Indigenous, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that the majority of deaths are also Indigenous.
Let’s compare the percentage of type of death.
Only one of the causes of death—homicide—is higher than the rate at which Indigenous young people are represented generally in intervention.
Here are the deaths according to sex (not specific to ethnicity:
Deaths were more or less evenly split along sex, with males being slightly higher.
When we chart deaths by age group, we find that younger children are at the greatest risk of death, with nearly have of the deaths happening to children under the age of 6.
The next largest was for young adults, at 21.1%. Even then, that still means that nearly 80% of the deaths over the last 9 years happened to youth under the age of 18, and 49.6% were under the age of 12.
Finally, when we compare the number of deaths to the number of young people in intervention, we find that the death rate per 1,000 young people has actually been trending upwards over the last decade.