Lisa Broda was appointed as Saskatchewan's Advocate for Children and Youth in November 2019. / Sask. Advocate for Children and Youth

5 things from the new Sask. child advocate's first report

Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth Lisa Broda (BA'96, MA'03, PhD'17) has delivered her first annual report to the Saskatchewan Legislature since her appointment in November 2019.

The report, as shared by the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, touches on all aspects of the advocate’s duties, which are broadly defined as advocating for children who are either directly or indirectly receiving services from the province, and investigating any issues. Some key take-aways include:

1. Deaths of kids receiving services spiked in 2019

Broda’s office received 34 notifications regarding deaths of children receiving services in 2019, compared to a five-year average of 21. The report notes the increases were found in the 0-5 and 11-15 age groups, and nearly half the children who died were younger than two.

“This trend is likely a result of the vulnerabilities inherent to their young age,” Broda wrote. The report noted unsafe sleeping practices were either present or suspected in five of the deaths.

2. Suicide was the single most common known cause of death for Sask. kids receiving services in 2019

Ten of the 34 deaths in 2019 don’t yet have an official cause listed. Seven cases were listed as suicides, which was the largest single group in which a cause of death had been confirmed. “Deaths by suicide, suicide attempts, and serious incidents of self-harm accounted for 28 per cent of all critical injury and death notifications received by our office,” Broda wrote.

3. First Nations, Métis youth make up largest proportion of deaths, injuries

The report also shows that in a vast majority of cases, children receiving services who either died or were seriously hurt in 2019 were of First Nations or Métis ancestry, making up 28 of 33 cases of critical injuries and 29 of 34 deaths. Broda wrote that the situation was reflective of high overall rates of Indigenous youth in the child welfare and justice systems.

“This ongoing trend is unacceptable and highlights the urgency with which our province must embrace reconciliation, and with which all sectors must work together to improve outcomes for Indigenous children,” Broda wrote.

4. Social Services was subject of most calls

Sixty-five per cent of calls to the children’s advocate last year were related to services provided by the Ministry of Social Services.

“On average, our office receives approximately 1,500 advocacy requests per year. Disagreement with case plans and case management issues remain the leading cause of concern for our callers,” Broda wrote.

5. Budget sees slight uptick

The report showed the advocate’s office spent just under $2.8 million in 2019-20, an increase of slightly more than $100,000 compared to its 2018-19 budget. As of Dec. 31, the office employed 21 people, including Broda.

Article originally published on https://thestarphoenix.com.

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