Teenager had previously attempted suicide before dying in Edmonton group home in 2014
The caseworker working with Kyleigh Crier at the time the teen killed herself in an Edmonton group home wasn’t initially told the girl had made a previous attempt on her life, a fatality inquiry heard Tuesday.
Kyleigh Crier in 2014. She died by suicide in an Edmonton group home in April 2014. She was 15. (Supplied)
Mary Robinson began working with Crier in May 2013. Less than a year later, Crier hanged herself in the bedroom of her group home. She was 15-years-old.
Robinson told the fatality inquiry that when she met Crier’s previous case worker in May 2013, she wasn’t told the teenager had already attempted suicide.
Crier’s file consisted of five volumes, each about two inches thick. While Robinson said she did refer to the files for specific checks, she did not do a complete file review.
During the time she spent working with Crier, Robinson eventually did learn of the teenager’s previous suicide attempt. But she said she never knew it was a hanging attempt until after her death.
Troubling case from the start
Crier’s case has raised troubling questions since her death in 2014. CBC News learned Crier’s group home did not have breakaway bars in the rooms’ closets. Breakaway bars are designed to collapse if too much weight is placed on them, preventing suicide attempts.
The bars have since been installed. The group home had also not received its full accreditation at the time of her death, although an application had been made, which is permissible in the province.
Crier was a troubled teenager. Robinson said she had been briefed about the girl’s troubles with substance abuse, as well as mental illnesses including depression and psychotic disorder, suspected fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.
Robinson said her priority was to develop a rapport and trust with Crier and that she gathered additional background information from the previous caseworker, Amanda MacDonald, in the weeks following her take over of the case.
At the inquiry, MacDonald said she couldn’t remember if she forwarded the latest information she had about Crier to Robinson when her file was transferred. All of the information about the teenager would have been put in her file, she said.
Kyleigh Crier had made a previous attempt on her life before her suicide in April 2014. (Supplied)
MacDonald had been concerned the girl was at risk of taking her own life and “seemed quite low” at various times in 2013.
MacDonald told court she had taken steps twice to have Crier confined to a secure treatment facility as a precaution for her own safety. Crier was leaving her placement homes and refusing to take the medications that had been prescribed to stabilize her condition, she said.
Robinson told court secure treatment had not stopped Crier going awol after her placement in those programs ended and wanted to find a place she would like.
‘A sweet girl who wanted a better life’
Outside court, the teenager’s mother said she was upset hearing her daughter’s caseworker did not know critical details when she took over her file.
But her feelings are mixed.
“I thought I was going to be angry and I thought I was going to cry but I actually feel better because she said in court under oath she didn’t know my daughter tried to commit suicide.”
Crier’s aunt, said it was a major concern that Robinson did not seem to know about the teenager’s reluctance to take her medications at the time the file was transferred, especially since she was hallucinating.
As frustrating as she could be to deal with given the torment she was clearly going through and had suffered in her short life, MacDonald told the inquiry Crier was a “sweet girl who wanted a better life”.
The fatality inquiry is scheduled to continue to the end of this week.
Fatality Inquiries in Alberta cannot find any findings of legal responsibility but the judge can make recommendations aimed at preventing similar tragedies.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network.