Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux issued the following statement today in response to the Representative for Children and Youth’s investigative report into the death of a youth who had been receiving ministry services.
“As this report points out, the circumstances around this young man’s death have been reviewed by three separate agencies: the community agency he was being served by in his final days, the Coroner’s Service and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, through the work of a contracted external expert.
“We appreciate the additional perspective offered by Representative’s report. Recognizing that much of the recommended work extends beyond the youth justice system and this ministry’s mandate, we will discuss with our partner ministries to determine how this report might inform further service improvements.
“With regard to provincial mental-health and substance-use services, I can tell you that this government convened a cross-ministry Cabinet Working Group on Mental Health with a key goal to identify and address gaps in the current system and make sure that individuals and families can access support services early – before they find themselves in a crisis.
“The working group is in the process of developing an integrated, cross-government mental-health and substance-use strategy for British Columbia.
“The various reviews that have been conducted into this case have provided considerable opportunity for organizational learning and service improvement, and my ministry has not been idle in embracing those lessons.
“In the last year, we’ve improved policy to ensure that sentencing recommendations are addressed, decisions around interventions for youth-justice clients are thoroughly informed and all options are considered. We now require that youth probation officers review police reports to Crown counsel so they can better understand the nature of the offense a youth has committed. We also now require that youth probation officers discuss any breach of bail conditions with the youth and the parents and consider any needed changes to the youth’s service plan.
“Further, we are providing compulsory training sessions to youth probation officers on dealing with youth who have concurrent disorders, including training on how to recognize signs and symptoms of addiction and withdrawal.
“This death of the young man at the centre of these reports was a terrible tragedy. I feel for the family. No one should ever have to deal with the loss of a child.
“When the unthinkable does happen, we all search for answers. We want to know why it happened, how it happened and what we can do to help prevent anything like this from ever again taking place on our watch.
“Ultimately, it is incumbent on us to learn from the lessons of this young man’s life. That is what this government is doing and we now have the benefit of four separate reviews to help guide that ongoing work.”