This is, in my opinion, a story of deluded expectations versus reality. Currently across the Western World there is a justifiable cry for help to be extended to all. Not just the vulnerable within borders, but for aid to be extended to the vulnerable all over the world. A desire to help others is a central part of our cultural teaching. It drives policy and it does much good, yet what about the like of Relisha Tenau Rudd? Within our comfortable societies are awful problems that remain without any solution. Do we have an issue with our perspective? How can we realistically help the world when we constantly ignore the limitations of our abilities right on our doorstep?
This is Relisha.
She was living in a Washington DC homeless shelter that was based in an old hospital building. She was with her mother and siblings. Also there was a janitor called Tatum. In the weeks before 1st April 2014 this little girl was believed to have been left with the 51 year old janitor. On that date he was found dead in a park. In the time that remains a mystery her mother had trusted the little girl’s care to the man. His wife was found murdered and when the cops went looking for him he had disappeared. It is reported he had bought a shovel and lime shortly before his death. Relisha has not been seen since. A reward is offered for the right information and the details are below.
In an NBC Washington article a video report was attached. In that Relisha’s mother was interviewed. She said she trusted the janitor as he was not the sort of person you would not trust with your child. Whatever, of course, such a trustworthy person looks like. She also said that the girl had been in the care of her grandmother and aunt. That is something they denied. Relisha’s mother also confirmed there was a three week delay in reporting her daughter missing.
The report went on to say that there had been warnings about the vulnerability of the family unit in the past. It quotes incidents of inadequate shelter, medical neglect, a child being hit and a low level of supervision. It doesn’t say what action, if any, was taken.
Tatum’s wife was found in a motel. There is CCTV footage of Relisha with Tatum going into a motel room. Andrea Kelly (Tatum’s wife) and her children had known Tatum for years. She died of gunshot wounds. There are no reports he did anything bad to other children in all that time. On the one hand you have this lovely surrogate uncle picture of Tatum. On the other hand a report says that the last time Relisha was seen could have been a month before Tatum was found dead. In that time he had been going about his normal life without any sign of her.
So was she with Andrea Kelly, her family, Tatum or had Tatum killed the little girl early on? Was the shovel and lime in order that he could dispose of the child’s body or was it part of a plan to dispose of Andrea Kelly?
There are all sorts of quotes from family and a social worker. There are all manner of ifs and maybes and there lies my point.
Whenever there is a crisis and we rise to the need of people the same amount of resources are available. The same number of cops, social workers, teachers, health care professionals and shelters. Money can be put up and often is. Millions to billions of dollars are released, but you cannot just create the knowledgeable people to increase the workforce needed.
No-one knows where Relisha is. The FBI still list her as missing. Was she handed to someone else for some new form of hell? Was she killed by Tatum? This is just one kid of countless many. By all means throw at me the usual nonsense about my being uncaring about the world. My words above do not support such a position. I do care. I care about the Relisha’s we have and I want to see them safe. However, we are not keeping them safe. This was not some random snatching from the street. This was a long slow vanishing of a child known to many adults. She was under the supervision of many who had a duty to care. The system failed and it will be failing as I write this.
We either admit we cannot cope and find a new way to deal with our issues or we don’t. One thing for sure, we cannot confidently and truthfully pretend we can offer help to all when we cannot even take care of kids like Relisha who are right in front of us.
Tatum died as a result of what is believed to have been a self inflicted gun shot wound. He was a past felon who had spent many years in prison. As a result he should not even have had the job he did where he could become close to eight year old kids. That said the emphasis is often on ‘the system’ when a frank conversation about people’s ability to parent and their responsibilities should also be part of any honest and painful conversation.
Please note, this not a hit piece on the USA. This happens here, Australia, Canada and NZ. It also happens in all of Europe. Not only are there clear signs our systems don’t work, there are also clear signs of collusion within governmental departments to avoid discussing the issues.
Take care of the little ones.