Mother of Edmonton group home suicide victim demands change

‘It’s like my daughter was pushed aside’ – Crystal Crier

An Edmonton mother is calling for a review of Alberta’s child welfare system after hearing how her desperate teenage daughter took her own life in a group home.


Crystal Crier is calling for a review of Alberta's child welfare system. Crystal Crier is calling for a review of Alberta’s child welfare system. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC News)

“I’m upset,” Crystal Crier said “It feels like it’s going to slowly tear apart my heart again.”

Kyleigh Crier was 15 when she hanged herself in the bedroom of her group home in April 2014. A fatality inquiry in Edmonton provincial court is examining the circumstances surrounding her death.

Her mother believes Kyleigh’s death was preventable had the child welfare system responded differently to what she calls her daughter’s cries for help.

The inquiry has heard how Kyleigh Crier was fighting depression and substance abuse issues as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and suspected fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Crier had to leave the courtroom at points during the inquiry to escape the anguish she felt after hearing testimony from people who worked with her daughter.

Kyleigh Crier in 2014. She died later that year by suicide in an Edmonton group home.Kyleigh Crier in 2014. She died by suicide in an Edmonton group home later that year. (Supplied)

Caseworkers handling Kyleigh’s file told court they tried everything to get her the best treatment, which they said she didn’t always want.

Crystal Crier and her family were angry to hear the government caseworkers say that as a minimum they try to meet once a month with the youth in their care.

They met more often with Kyleigh, they told court. They said other workers from the group home would have been in daily contact with the girl.

But that doesn’t satisfy her family.

“If a child is looking at suicidal tendencies, do you think looking at someone twelve times a year is going to be sufficient? I don’t think so,” said Luci Johnson, an aunt of Crystal Crier.

Crystal Crier's aunt Luci Johnson describes Kyleigh as a beautiful girl who needed supportCrystal Crier’s aunt Luci Johnson describes Kyleigh as a beautiful girl who needed support. (Gareth Hampshire, CBC News)

Crier is also bothered by what she feels was an incomplete response to her daughter’s thoughts about suicide.

The inquiry has heard how the teenager had previously tried to end her own life.

But the caseworker who took over her file about a year before she died wasn’t aware of that attempt.

The worker told court she didn’t do a complete review of Kyleigh Crier’s case file, explaining it would have been a big task given it consisted of five volumes, each about two inches thick.

“I thought they were always supposed to do that,” Crystal Crier said.

A caseworker supervisor told court it was probably good practice to read an entire file but said he left it for his staff to judge how much they needed to know about each client.

Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir said it is a tragedy any time a child dies while in government care.

“There are things that need to be learned,” he said.

Sabir said the province will act on any possible recommendations that could be presented by the judge.

“We will be reviewing those and we will make sure that we can put safeguards in place to avoid similar incidents from happening again.”

Minister Irfan Sabir said 'there are things to be learned' from the death in care of Kyleigh CrierHuman Services Minister Irfan Sabir said ‘there are things to be learned’ from the death of Kyleigh Crier (Gareth Hampshire CBC News)

Sabir’s office confirmed Human Services staff will testify at the inquiry when it reconvenes in December.

The break is agonizing for Crystal Crier who is interested in seeing the judge’s final report and hoping it leads to change.

“My family is here with me so that’s how I lean on them because it’s not easy for me.”

Crier remembers her daughter as a beautiful and caring child with maturity beyond her years.

The workers who knew her thought the girl was making strides and seemed excited about the future prior to her death.

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.

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