Alex Radita's death from untreated diabetes sparks call for change
Too easy for families to fly under radar of provincial protection agencies, says advocate
Provincial leaders from both Alberta and British Columbia say changes are needed after the parents of a 15-year-old boy who died of untreated diabetes were charged with his murder.
Alex Radita died last May after he was found severely emaciated and confined to his bed. Police have charged his parents Rodica and Emil Radita with first-degree murder.
- Rodica and Emil Radita face murder charges in emaciated son's death
- Emaciated teen found dead had history of untreated diabetes
- Teen's death sparks call for social services information
While the courts will decide on the parents' level of responsibility, it seems as though several systems across two provinces failed the teen along the way.
Alex was diagnosed with diabetes as toddler.
But the Raditas had a history of not treating their son's diabetes when they lived in B.C., according to a court document obtained by CBC News.
His condition landed him in the hospital several times when he was younger.
Child services in B.C. even seized Alex when he was four after he was admitted to hospital in grave condition.
Returned to family despite concerns
Alex was kept in provincial care for a year before a judge ordered that he be returned to his family — a ruling made despite his social worker's fight to have him permanently removed from their care.
"The social workers and the Ministry of Child Development did all the right things; they brought the child into care, they kept the child in care and they advocated for the child coming under continuing care order," said B.C. social worker union spokesperson Doug Kinna.
"The judge overruled that and returned the child.... It's a poor decision by the judge, I would say."
After he was returned to his family, the Raditas moved to Alberta.
His parents never took him to a doctor in the province. He was home schooled and kept behind closed doors.
Nobody in Alberta was alerted to the fact that the Raditas failed to treat their son's condition in the past.
"They can just disappear if they're not in touch with any of the other social service agencies," said Kinna. "You can put an alert on the file but if they don't come to someone's attention and they stay low to the ground, you're not going to be able to find them."
He says it's too easy for families to fly under the radar of provincial protection agencies.
"Once a child moves to another jurisdiction, that jurisdiction then assumes responsibility for any child protection services," said a spokesperson from the British Columbia ministry of Children and Family Development.
Much of the same story came from Alberta's Child Advocate's office.
"We don't have jurisdiction to investigate because the young person was not involved in the child intervention system in Alberta, so was not known to us," wrote a communications spokesperson.
B.C.'s Children and Youth Advocate wouldn't comment, but Alberta's Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar said protecting children should come before privacy concerns.
"We need to make sure people are sharing information — whether that's community, agencies, governments — that needs to happen," he said.
"Governments are bound to share information on open files but maybe we lower the threshold and it's not just open files but files that were open a year ago or two years ago."
The education system also wasn't checking on Alex Radita.
According to Alberta Education, a teacher checks on children who are home schooled twice a year but not necessarily in the home.
Need for continued oversight
Bhullar said the main question is how long provinces should share information after the file is closed.
He is calling on child welfare directors from across the country to address the issue.
"(They) need to say, 'How do we make sure people don't use a move (moving from one jurisdiction to another) as a way to get out of involvement with the child intervention system?'"
The minister says closed files are the issue because once a family's file in one province is concluded there is no inter-jurisdiction communication.
"These are very significant conversations, these are very significant policy issues," he said.
"There still needs to be continuing oversight."
B.C. Premier Christy Clark says her government is doing what it can to protect children who find themselves in a similar situation, but she did not say whether an investigation would be launched.
"We don't know all the details yet, [but] we absolutely have to determine how those things happened. This isn't the only case in the country where that's happened, as you know. So we have to make sure that ... we're connecting not just within our province between ministries, but that we're connecting between governments as well across the country," she said.
"There's just no question about it, in a world where people are so mobile. Because those kinds of situations are absolutely tragic, they are often times preventable, and we have to know we did everything we could."