Editor's note: The following is Part 1 of a three-part series. Part 2 will follow tomorrow.
The parents of a boy killed at a Barrie foster home two years ago are blaming the home’s operators and those associated with it for the death of their son, which they say could have been prevented.
David Roman was 15 years old and living at the privately-run group home in south-end Barrie when he was stabbed to death on Feb. 19, 2019. Another boy, who was 14 at the time, has been charged and has been ordered to stand trial on first-degree murder. He is scheduled to return to court this week.
David’s parents, Antonio Roman and Elena Dvoskina, and his sister, Marina Dominguez, have launched a $3.75-million lawsuit against the boy accused of killing their son, the home’s foster parent, as well as the company, Expanding Horizons Family Services Inc., the children’s aid societies in Simcoe County, York Region and Hamilton, and the Barrie Police Services Board, accusing them of being liable in the death of their son.
Just one day before David’s death, the young foster parent running the home with four boys had called police when foster parent's room was broken into and a kitchen knife was stolen, according to the parents’ statement of claim, which was filed in December. It added that David told his foster parent he was uncomfortable with having the other boy in the house.
Further, the statement of claim continues, the other boy was charged with trespassing, but was returned to the home despite the protestations of the foster parent, who said he was pressured by Expanding Horizons to take the boy back.
“In the early morning hours of Feb. 19, 2019, David was assaulted by (the accused boy) while he was asleep in bed and sustained injuries to his upper body. Shortly thereafter, David ran upstairs and knocked on (the foster parent's) bedroom door for assistance,” the statement from the parents reads. “While (the foster parent) was getting a towel from the master bedroom’s internal bathroom to help stop David’s bleeding, David was subject to a knife attack.”
David was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The young foster parent, Jordan Calver, who was 23 when he was hired, is suing Expanding Horizons and its operators, as well as the Hamilton children’s aid society, its workers and the accused boy for $11 million. He says he has suffered long-lasting trauma resulting from his experience and witnessing the attack.
He has also launched a $6-million lawsuit against the Ontario government represented by the minister of children, community and social services. In that suit, he charges that had the provincial government followed its own policies, directives and guidelines, the group home’s licence would have been revoked prior to David’s death.
That would have “prevented the placement of foster children, through Expanding Horizons, and would have prevented the then-24-year-old plaintiff from caring for the four teenaged foster children,” Calver's claim reads.
The parents allege in their statement of claim that the foster parent failed to use reasonable skill to provide a safe home for David, failed to report that the accused boy had previously been arrested in connection with an attempted convenience store robbery to children’s aid, and should never have allowed the boy back into the house.
They set out similar accusations against Expanding Horizons and also blame the organization of failing to provide adequate training to the foster parent, suggesting he do Google searches to find information he needed, failing to properly supervise the home, not having a protocol for foster parents to report potential safety issues, and directing the foster parent to take the accused boy back after he was charged with breaking into the bedroom the day before David was killed.
Statements of defence by those named have not yet been filed in the three lawsuits.
“We don’t have any comment at this time,” said Frank Le Greco of Expanding Horizons, suggesting he might comment in the coming weeks.
The parents blame the York and Hamilton children’s aid societies for their role in placing David and the accused boy in the home and Simcoe for its role in monitoring it and ensuring it was safe.
They accuse the Barrie Police Services Board of dropping the ball by returning the accused boy to the home and failing to assess the risk potential and not reporting him to Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions, which amalgamated the Simcoe Children’s Aid Society and Family, Youth and Child Services of Muskoka in 2015.
David ended up going to foster care after conflicts at home. He had been living with his mom in Richmond Hill, but she realized her teenage son was using recreational drugs and not attending school most days, according to the statement of claim. Meanwhile, in the fall of 2018, she was dealing with cancer and chemotherapy appointments.
The parents say they began working with a York Region Children's Aid Society case worker and decided to place the boy in a foster home on a voluntary basis to give him a new start at a new school, while giving him the option to spend time with his parents, when he was able to.
But they found the Newmarket home where he had been placed to be not appropriate and he moved back in with his mom while the worker searched for a home where the boy could get “individualized care” with the goal of returning home.
In mid-December 2018, the worker turned to the foster agency Expanding Horizons, which operated a home in southwest Barrie.
According to the parents’ statement of claim, the operators of Expanding Horizons had hired a young, single man with no relevant work experience to serve as the foster parent at the Barrie home. The parents allege he was interviewed in a coffee shop and later put in charge of four teenage boys.
“Expanding Horizons is vicariously liable for any acts of negligence that Calver engaged in during the course of his work at the foster home,” the parents charge in their lawsuit. “Expanding Horizons was obliged to provide Calver with more robust education and training before making him primarily responsible for the well being of four vulnerable teenage boys.”
Apart from a couple of training sessions lasting a few hours each in a training room of the local public library, he received no other training or education before starting his job as a foster parent in November 2018, the lawsuit alleges.
He moved in the following month and the boy who has been subsequently accused of murder joined him a few days later. By the time of David’s death, four boys were calling the house their home.
In one of his statements of claim, meanwhile, the foster parent said he was working as a local restaurant manager and was keen to develop a more fulfilling career and helping youth seemed like a good way to do that.
Expanding Horizons’ Frank Le Greco and Karen Robineau assured him during the coffee shop meeting that he would be eased into foster parenting and given training, education and resources to meet the needs of the youth, he states in his claim.
“They further explained that the youth would be not be (sic) profoundly troubled or disturbed; the worst they would do is occasionally skip school, smoke cannabis, or go AWOL for periods of time,” reads his first statement of claim, which was filed in January.
In that claim, Calver states he was later assured that he required no diplomas and that Expanding Horizons would provide him with training.
During his two days of non-violent crisis intervention training at the public library, the foster parent was surprised that he was learning about how to safely physically restrain a youth, since he was under the impression he would not be dealing with violent youths, according to his statement of claim.
“Jordan met with Frank and described these concerns. He was assured by Frank that the youth in his care would not be violent, they would just be at-risk kids. Frank assured Jordan that he would be provided with training and support for each youth,” the foster parent’s statement of claim states.
But in his claim, Calver alleges there was no other formal training other than a CPR course, which was not provided until after he was already working in the home with the four youths.
The foster parent's statement outlines a series of concerns beginning early after the arrival of the boy who would later be charged with first-degree murder and continued right until the day of the killing. According to the claim, they included the boy’s December 2018 arrest for robbing a convenience store at gunpoint.
“Jordan reported this incident to Frank and requested that (the accused boy) not be allowed back into the home. Frank told Jordan that there were not enough incidents to warrant removing him from the home and, in any event, it appeared the incident at the convenience store appeared to be a prank,” according to the foster parent’s statement, which includes a lengthy list of accusations against Expanding Horizons and its representatives including negligence and breach of fiduciary duty for which he says they are liable.
Other concerns outlined in the claim included aggressive and threatening behaviour, the discovery of a white powder substance and puncture marks in the boy’s bedding. The foster parent alleges in his claim that his concerns were repeatedly dismissed as were his requests for additional support.
He also alleges in the claim that he discovered the boy had a history of “many reported violent acts” that weren’t disclosed to him.