The Advocate for Children and Youth has the responsibility to receive, review and investigate concerns regarding services provided to children and youth by ministries, agencies of the government and publicly funded health entities.
The Advocate for Children and Youth Act, (the Act) outlines our mandate to review issues to provide children and youth with a full continuum of investigative services.
Advancing the rights, interests, and well-being of children and youth is an overarching priority whether we are conducting case assessments or full investigations, analyzing child death or critical injury data, or monitoring recommendations and calls to action.
Regardless of the type of investigation undertaken, the fundamental purpose is the same:
All our investigations place the rights, interests, and well-being of the child or youth at the centre. Investigations can vary from single to multi-issue and can involve many ministries, agencies and/or systems. In the course of our investigations, we gather information, review the facts, and analyze the evidence from all relevant child-serving systems that have provided services to the young person.
Information gathered from the Ministry of Social Services, First Nations Child and Family Services Agencies, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, the Coroner’s Office, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health (including hospitals, public health, mental health and addictions services), municipal police and the RCMP may have to be reviewed during a single investigation.
We conduct our investigations in an unbiased, neutral, balanced, and fair manner and provide the entity subject to the investigation an opportunity to make representation to the Advocate on the findings and recommendations.
A critical injury is defined by our office as being an incident where the injury sustained by the child or youth necessitates their hospitalization and major medical treatment. The Advocate may also investigate an attempted suicide as a critical injury, regardless of whether hospitalization or major medical treatment was required.
Our office is notified of deaths and critical injuries of children and youth who are receiving, or have recently received, services from the Ministry of Social Services or a delegated First Nations Child and Family Services Agency. These services include (but are not limited to) supports to families so that children can remain safely at home, out-of-home care, and supports to young people to live independently.
We are also notified of deaths and critical injuries of youth receiving services from the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety. These youth may be remanded to custody awaiting trial, serving a sentence in either open or closed custody, or serving a sentence in the community.
Depending on the circumstances, we may also respond to a child death or critical injury notification by providing advocacy services for the injured child and/or any children and youth living in care or custody of the home or facility at the time of another child’s death or critical injury.
The Act enables the Advocate to initiate investigations into any matter that comes to their attention, or matters raised by children and youth, their families, professionals, or other members of the community, which affect young people in the province. These concerns may result in our office initiating individual or systemic investigations to address specific or broader issues.
The Act further enables the Advocate to conduct research-based investigations into matters that are of concern to children and youth in the province such as the Shhhh Listen and Desperately Waiting reports.
The Act authorizes a committee of Saskatchewan’s Legislative Assembly, as well as the Lieutenant Governor in Council, to make referrals to the Advocate for investigation, and to report on matters affecting the interests and well-being of children. The Advocate must independently carry out the request for review, investigation, and subsequent report as required by the Act, except in instances where the issues are outside their jurisdiction.
Investigations, regardless of type, result in our office drawing conclusions that typically lead to issuing recommendations to relevant government bodies. In accordance with our legislation and best practices, prior to finalizing any recommendations, our drafted findings and recommendations are shared with the affected ministry, agency, or publicly-funded health entity involved in the investigation. This gives these bodies an opportunity to provide feedback and a meaningful response. We review all responses carefully to consider whether it is necessary to gather more information, re-examine our analysis, or re-formulate the wording of our final recommendations.
We work to ensure our investigations are sound and free of factual or other errors, and to make recommendations that are clear and feasible. While our recommendations are not binding, we work collaboratively as this is proven to be the most effective path toward influencing practice, service, policy, or legislative improvements that will benefit children and youth in the province.
The Advocate prioritizes the monitoring of its recommendations and regularly follows up with the entity involved. There are also instances where the public body will decline the Advocate’s recommendations for various reasons. In these situations, difficult decisions are made to either maintain our advocacy efforts or conclude the recommendation file and report out on it publicly.
When closing a recommendation, our office assesses the results of the monitoring activities to determine whether adequate, partial, or no action has been taken. Amending legislation or policy, and/or altering current practice to improve access or service provision, are some examples of the type of issue or action required that must be satisfied before recommendations are approved by the Advocate for closure.