Friday, June 5, 2015

Protecting the Next Relisha

In her May 29 Metro column, “New funds for homeless may be legacy of Relisha Rudd,” Petula Dvorak blamed homelessness and a malfunctioning truancy system for the tragic story of Relisha Rudd, omitting the Child and Family Services Agency, whose job it is to protect children in the District.
Relisha’s family was known to the CFSA. The family had been the subject of several reports. There were numerous indications that the family was in trouble. Relisha’s brothers had frequent behavior problems at school, often a sign of trouble at home. School staff reported numerous warning signs, such as Relisha missing more than 30 days of school, Relisha often arriving for class dirty and Relisha and one of her brothers left waiting at school at the end of the day.
If the CFSA had an open case on the family, a social worker was expected to visit the family at least twice a month. It would have been a social worker’s job to make sure Relisha was okay.
The CFSA has been touting its success in taking fewer children into foster care. The acting director reported proudly this year that 62 percent of the children it serves are at home. That is good news indeed, as long as the children who are with their families are receiving the monitoring and services they need to be safe. Relisha certainly was not.
The D.C. Council needs to demand information about the handling of Relisha’s case so that other children will not suffer the same fate.
Marie Cohen, Washington
The writer was a social worker.
This column was published on the Local Opinion page of the Washington Post on June 5, 2015.

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