Children’s representative seeks update on cross-border alerts

Alexandru Radita, 15, died in 2013 and his parents, Emil and Rodica Radita, were convicted in 2017 of first-degree murder.

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BC has a protocol for interprovincial information sharing when an at-risk child moves out of the province, but BC’s children’s representative said cross-border sharing did not occur in the case of a 15-year-old boy who died of neglect in Alberta .

This is because the Ministry of Child and Family Development closed his file despite BC doctors’ concerns for the boy.

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British Columbia Children and Youth Representative Jennifer Charlesworth was responding to a death investigation report released this week by an Alberta judge.

It recommended a cross-provincial alert information sharing system for high-risk children. Judge Sharon Van de Veen made the recommendation after examining the case of Alexandru Radita, who died due to negligence in Calgary even though British Columbia officials knew he was in danger.

Alex weighed 37 pounds and was severely malnourished when, in May 2013, he was taken to the hospital where he died of sepsis and received no treatment. diabetes. Her parents, Emil and Rodica Radita, were convicted in 2017 of first-degree murder.

Van de Veen discovered that standardized cross-border communication could have saved Alex’s life and could prevent similar deaths in the future.

Doctors at BC Children’s Hospital played a key role in raising concerns about the lack of treatment for Alex’s illness. diabetes. The court heard that her parents refused to accept that he had the disease after he was diagnosed in 2000.

He was hospitalized twice in BC due to malnutrition and taken to a foster home, but later returned to his parents.

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The family moved to Alberta in 2008. The boy’s file in British Columbia had been closed, so child welfare officials in Alberta were unaware he was potentially in danger.

Charlesworth said that given the many warning signs about Alex’s well-being, the ministry sought to return him to care with a continuing custody order. However, that request was rejected by a BC judge. As a result, Alex was not treated and the ministry closed his file.

“I think it was unfortunate that (his file) was closed,” Charlesworth said. “If it were open, then… there are provisions for inter-provincial sharing of information when there are concerns.”

Grace Lore, British Columbia’s Minister of Child and Family Development, called Alex’s death “absolutely horrific” and said there have been a number of changes since 2013.

BC now has a provincial-territorial protocol that includes “child action alerts,” he said. That means frontline workers in BC must collect and disseminate information whenever there are concerns about the safety and well-being of a child who has moved outside of BC.

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“When we know that a child has moved outside of British Columbia, frontline workers need to share that information and they need to do it verbally, not just by email,” Lore said. The province also has an interprovincial coordinator whose job is to ensure communication takes place, he said.

Lore acknowledged that there are “significant challenges when we have concerns about a child, but a child is not in our care or under a supervision order.”

That’s why he said his ministry will study Alberta’s fatality report to see if there are gaps that can be filled to ensure children are safe.

Charlesworth said many of the improvements in interprovincial information sharing came after a report he wrote in 2019 called Caught in the Middle, which examined the overdose death of a teenager who had been in contact with child welfare systems in Columbia. British and Alberta.

The teen moved to British Columbia when he was 13, after child protection officers in Alberta placed him with a relative. However, Alberta did not follow an existing protocol between provinces that required it to notify BC social workers of that agreement.

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“One of the things we identified there was how important it was that there was really good planning around interprovincial coordination,” Charlesworth said.

He said all other jurisdictions in Canada should participate in sharing crucial child welfare information. That’s why he’s calling for the federal-provincial-territorial task force, made up of provincial child welfare directors, to review its policies and provide an update on whether interprovincial communication is actually working.

Meanwhile, a Victorian pediatrician is raising concerns about how difficult it is to provide information to the ministry about a potentially at-risk child.

in a opinion article Writing in the Victoria Times Colonist published on Wednesday, Dr Jennifer Balfour said she had called the ministry’s child protection hotline three times in the past month and had to wait 80 minutes each time to speak to someone. The hotline is for professionals, including doctors, teachers or nurses, to report a concern about a child or young person who needs safeguarding.

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“I hate to think who gives up and doesn’t report their concern at all,” he wrote. “This wait on the phone line is emblematic of the disconnect between the ministerial system that says it exists to protect children from harm and the system that exists. Does it reflect a high call volume or lack of staff for the need? Either way, it’s horrible.”

In one example, Balfour said no one in the ministry seemed to know that a young child had not been in school for three months.

“No one saw her, she was caring for a sick adult, and it took us almost an hour and a half to communicate how very, very concerning this is.”

Lore said he read Balfour’s letter and shared his concerns about long wait times.

“This is not right,” he said. “We trust the adults in the community, whether they are doctors, teachers or community members, and we are talking about the safety, well-being and protection of children, and when they have concerns, they should be able to bring them to us. .

In the child protection line, there is the option of classifying a case as urgent, Lore said. Those calls are answered within five minutes.

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With files from The Canadian Press

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