Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) vowed Tuesday to conduct a thorough review of the District agencies that had contact with Relisha Rudd, the 8-year-old girl who remains missing and is the subject of an intense search by police.
The inquiry will include the school system and the Child and Family Services Agency. Her family was investigated at least three times by child welfare workers, and she had mounting absences at Payne Elemenary School. The school is near the old D.C. General Hospital, which is now a homeless shelter where Relisha lived with her mother and three brothers.
Gray said in a statement that while he believes agencies acted properly, “I will make sure that the District government responded to the facts of this case in a way that was both appropriate and responsible.”
The mayor said he directed Beatriz “BB” Otero, the deputy mayor for health and human services, and Abigail Smith, the deputy mayor for education, to oversee the review “and to make recommendations if any reforms to the District’s policies and practices are warranted.”
D.C. police last week ended a week-long search for Relisha in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens without finding any clues as to where she might be. Authorities said the search elsewhere would continue.
Relisha’s mother allowed Kahlil Malik Tatum, a 51-year-old janitor at the homeless shelter where the family lived, to take Relisha on Feb. 26; the girl was last seen with him on March 1 in Northeast Washington. The next day, police said Tatum bought 42-gallon trash bags and was seen in the park.
On March 31, searchers found Tatum’s body in a shed at the park. Police said that he apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and that his body had been there for from 36 hours to several days. Police have said they think it is possible Relisha was killed by Tatum.
Questions about the school system and child welfare agency include how Relisha could have been missed for so long at her school, although many of her absences were excused by a note presented to Payne officials signed “Dr. Tatum.” And officials with the Child and Family Services Agency have not explained precisely what action they took after sustaining complaints of neglect three times against members of Relisha’s family, saying to do so would violate the family’s privacy. Children were not removed from the home after visits in 2007, 2010 and 2013.
Also, several parents at the shelter have said Tatum repeatedly approached children and offered them money and other gifts, violating rules against employees fraternizing with clients.
Gray also said in the statement that he is committed to moving as many families out of the old hospital. He has asked the director of the District’s Department of Human Services to devise a plan to close the shelter, which has been described as crowded and bug ridden.
The mayor proposed moving people out of the D.C. General shelter in a speech last month, along with about 400 homeless families in motels. Gray said Monday that the city has identified 150 to 200 apartments for families and was inspecting those to see if they meet requirements for city subsidies.
Aaron C. Davis and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.