The trial of two parents accused of killing their son has exposed how a lack of co-operation between provincial social service agencies can lead to at-risk children falling through the cracks.
Court documents show Alexandru Radita was briefly put in B.C. foster care as a kindergartner in 2003, after it was discovered he was suffering from malnutrition and untreated type one diabetes.
He was returned to his family after a year.
After his family moved to Alberta in 2008, Radita didn't see a doctor for treatment for starvation and or diabetes. He was kept home and didn't attend school. He died in 2013 at home.
His parents Emil and Rodica Radita have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of their 15-year-old son.
Parents can simply move to avoid social services
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative For Children and Youth, says moving to another province is a strategy parents often employ to avoid social services, allowing vulnerable youth to fall off the radar.
"Where you have a database or information systems across the country that speak to each other where you can flag, 'This family, we've lost contact, please be on the lookout for them,'" Turpel-Lafond told CBC News.
"We do not even have basic co-ordinating information systems."
Alexandru Radita, pictured at his birthday party shortly before his death. (Photo: CP/HO-Government of Alberta)
For Radita's B.C. kindergarten teacher, the news of his death came as a shock.
Retired teacher Sandy Wong remembered Radita as "impish," "chubby," and "chatty" when he was in her class, according to The Calgary Herald.
Wong wrote a letter to the B.C. and Alberta Children's Ministries, as well as The Calgary Herald, calling for change:
"I hope that Alex's tragic death will bring about necessary changes regarding follow-up and monitoring in serious cases of neglect, when once apprehended children are returned to their parents. His life story of suffering and premature death demands that greater, more open sharing of information between provinces be implemented. The most vulnerable must be protected!"
Since Radita's death, most of Canada's provinces and territories have adopted a protocol with the intent of strengthening communication between provinces.
However, Turpel-Lafond says federal legislation, not an informal document, is needed to keep children safe.
“It’s an informal protocol and frequently I find those protocols are not observed,” she said to Global News.
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