ALBERTA

Alberta Child Advocate Calls For Change After Girl's Overdose Death In Group Home

08/12/2015 08:16 EDT | Updated 08/12/2015 08:59 EDT
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EDMONTON - Alberta's child advocate is calling for improvements after an eight-year-old in a group home died from an overdose of sleeping medication.

A report from Del Graff released Wednesday said that the unidentified girl had complex needs and was on various medications, including the sedative chloral hydrate.

A worker at the group home found her unresponsive in bed in early 2014.

An autopsy showed the child had too much chloral hydrate in her system. Police investigated but could not determine how the overdose happened.

"While all children who come into government care have some level of vulnerability, those with complex behavioural, developmental and/or medical needs are especially vulnerable,'' wrote Graff.

He said the provincial government needs to ensure all caregivers follow medication policies.

An internal government investigation after the death found gaps in the group home's medication procedures, the report said, although the home has since made changes.

Graff further recommended the province have a wider range of specialized caregivers and train all frontline child intervention caseworkers to better understand children with disabilities.

The girl, who was taken into care when she was seven, wasn't toilet trained and hadn't been in school. She had a risk of choking while eating and required a special diet and constant supervision.

She was diagnosed with severe social and intellectual disabilities as well as motor deficits and language problems. She was further assessed as being a risk to herself and others because of tantrums that lasted up to two hours.

She was initially put in a short-term group home for children with minimal needs. Instead of the maximum 72-hour stay allowed, she remained there for seven months because no other placement could be found.

The report said the girl was eventually moved to a foster home with parents experienced in caring for special-needs children. The girl only slept for a few hours at a time and was awake several times each night.

In the end, her foster parents found "her needs were beyond their capacity,'' and she was moved back to a group home with one-on-one supervision.

She had been in that home for just over a month when she was found dead.

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