‘It hurts my heart:’ B.C. social worker pushing for Alex Alerts for at-risk children

Says death of Alexandru Radita, 15, who weighed just 37 pounds when he died, was preventable

A British Columbia social worker says she won’t abandon her fight for a national alert system to prevent at-risk children from disappearing when their families unexpectedly relocate to different jurisdictions.

“Absolutely I’m frustrated,” said Patricia MacDonald, who has worked for B.C. Children’s Services for over 20 years, and had asked a judge not to return Alexandru Radita to his family.

Emil and Rodica Radita were found guilty nearly a year ago in Calgary of first-degree murder of the 15-year-old, who weighed just 37 pounds when he died in 2013. The trial heard that the boy, who was covered with bedsores and riddled with infection, died of complications due to untreated diabetes and starvation.

B.C. social workers apprehended Alexandru after an October 2003 hospital admission because his parents refused to treat his disease. He was placed in foster care, where he thrived for nearly a year before he was returned to his family, which eventually moved to Alberta.

READ: Child rep collects documents after Oak Bay sisters’ deaths, no decision on investigation

MacDonald has proposed a system of “Alex Alerts” that would notify other provinces when at-risk children move.

In Radita’s case, the court heard B.C. social services had an address for the family in Alberta but didn’t pass it along.

“It hurts my heart that the social worker let him down and didn’t call Calgary because they had an address for them in Calgary apparently,” said MacDonald. “If they had called the Calgary social workers they would have been on it.”

MacDonald said she has contacted a number of provincial and federal agencies, including the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pushing for the alerts.

But she said she has been referred to a 2016 interprovincial child welfare protocol, which sets out the responsibilities when families move out of province.

Manitoba’s deputy child advocate said the protocol works if case workers know where the at-risk child is headed.

“There is a protocol in place where say the agency here would alert the system in Saskatchewan to say, ‘Hey, we have concerns about the children that are travelling with this family.’ We have seen it work to good effect in the cases that I’m aware of,” said Ainsley Krone.

But if social workers don’t know where the child has gone?

“Then I’m not clear what it would be at that point,” she said.

The president of the Alberta College of Social Workers agrees that even with the protocol there needs to be a better way to track at-risk children.

“I think it is a problem. Part of it is because each province has its own legislation so there’s no national legislation to cover these type of situations,” said Richard Gregory.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea. You hear about those cases where a family becomes aware that they’re going to be investigated by children’s services and they take off and move to a different jurisdiction and fly under the wire for a while. There’s no way of tracking them.”

Alberta’s minister of children’s services said she would be willing to discuss the issue.

“If there is some action that is child centred that helps protect their safety, I’m certainly open to a conversation about that,” said Danielle Larivee.

“I don’t think it’s problematic to think that we would converse with one another.”

An official with the office of Ontario’s Children’s Advocate is also willing to discuss the matter.

“In principle, an Alex Alert is a good idea if a social services agency in one province could send an alert to its counterparts in other provinces of the child’s status or trace of whereabouts if that information is known,” said Akihiko Tse.

“We realize however, that in the tragic case in question, the child was never brought to the attention of social services and was not seen or heard by those in other sectors (education, health etc.).

“We hope that this is an isolated case.”

MacDonald said it is not an isolated case and it’s disheartening that what would be such a simple and effective solution has been such a hard sell so far.

“The government just doesn’t want to spend any money because it’s an area that doesn’t bring in any money,” MacDonald said.

“It’s like they’re throwaway kids. It’s usually the lower end of the scale that gets tossed aside.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Joie de vivre

Finding those “awe” moments with family, friends and food

Christians unite for one service in Rupert

Father Terry Brock is hoping to unite all of Prince Rupert’s Christians under one roof for one night

VIDEO: New whale rescue equipment comes to Rupert

Fisheries officers took to the water to practice saving stranded whales

Streeter: Do you think it’s important that the government holds discussions about poverty with the public?

Prince Rupert hosted the first public discussion on poverty by the province in 2018

Rupert recreation parking rent fees set to decrease in 2018

Proposed changes will make it easier for vendors and renters to use recreation facilities

This Week Episode 68

From inside the Northern View office in Prince Rupert we bring you all the news headlines

Carriers wanted for the Northern View

We have open routes for carriers all over Prince Rupert

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

B.C. woman who forged husband’s will gets house arrest

Princeton Judge says Odelle Simmons did not benefit from her crime

Women’s movement has come a long way since march on Washington: Activists

Vancouver one of several cities hosting event on anniversary of historic Women’s March on Washington

Liberals’ 2-year infrastructure plan set to take 5: documents

Government says 793 projects totalling $1.8 billion in federal funds have been granted extensions

Workers shouldn’t be used as ‘pawns’ in minimum wage fight: Wynne

Comments from Kathleen Wynne after demonstrators rallied outside Tim Hortons locations across Canada

Most Read