POLITICS

Alberta NDP calls on child advocate to review death of worker in teen care home

05/17/2012 01:12 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT
EDMONTON - Alberta's NDP says it's time to bring in the child and youth advocate to shed light on the death of a woman who was killed on the job at an assisted-living home for teens.

Rachel Notley says child advocate Del Graff, as an independent officer reporting directly to the legislature, has more latitude to expose issues kept under wraps by the province in similar cases.

"Information is not coming out," Notley told a news conference at the legislature Thursday.

"This is information that we should have. It's a very genuine request for an open conversation about an issue that is rarely discussed openly."

Under the Child and Youth Advocate Act, Graff can investigate only in cases where a child in care has been killed or seriously injured.

Notley dismissed a suggestion she was stretching the limits of the act to try to get information that would not otherwise be made public.

"I disagree with you completely," she said.

"When somebody is in close proximity to a seriously violent incident, or in this case a fatality, that is in fact an incident itself because it fundamentally compromises (the child's) sense of security.

"The other youth who were in that setting were also at risk and have also suffered injury as a result of the fatality."

There were three teens living at the home in Camrose, southeast of Edmonton, when Dianne McClements was killed on the weekend. One of those teens, a 17-year-old youth, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Graff did not immediately return a request for an interview.

Police, the Human Services Department and Occupational Health and Safety officials are already investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of the 61-year-old woman.

She had been working at the home for an agency contracted by the government to look after the teens. She was found dead Saturday night from what an autopsy described as multiple sharp wounds.

The teen was arrested 170 kilometres away in Vermilion, which is also where McClements's stolen PT Cruiser was found.

The teen, who by law can't be identified, is to appear in court June 7.

It's the second death of a care worker in Camrose in a little over a year.

On Feb. 13, 2011, the body of Valerie Wolski, 41, was found in an apartment. She had been caring for a man with limited mental capacity and was alone with him when she was strangled. Terrance Saddleback was charged with manslaughter, but later found mentally unfit to stand trial.

A preliminary report by Occupational Health and Safety said the province's Persons With Developmental Disabilities Board failed to warn Wolski or her employer that Saddleback was violent and dangerous.

The response by Persons with Disabilities, along with information on its appeal of an order to conduct more due diligence with subcontractors, has not been released to the public.

Notley said the system needs fundamental restructuring.

"This model (of subcontracting out government services to private or non-profit third parties) can be very unsafe if you don't engage in adequate assessment before the child is placed there," she said.

"We're basically asking people who earn $15 an hour — who often have no training — to do this off the side of their desk and provide care and support to high-risk children who are no longer able to be cared for safely and securely in their homes or through foster care."