Regarding the March 27 front-page article “Missing D.C. 8-year-old’s hard past comes into focus”:
Confidentiality laws and our ethical obligations to families limit what we are able to say publicly. But the fact that D.C. Child and Family Services Agency does not remove a child as a result of a substantiated abuse or neglect allegation does not mean we do not provide services in such cases. When we assess children at low to moderate risk, we provide case management and services tailored to a family’s needs. For example, if we find a filthy house, we might arrange for house-cleaning service; if we find a lack of supervision, we will assist with child-care services.
Of course, the most important thing is to determine the underlying reasons for these conditions. Many families struggle with substance abuse or mental health issues that can be treated. If parents are participating in mental-health or substance-abuse services, we assess their ability to take care of their children. If the parents do not participate in these services, and we determine that the children are unsafe, we can petition the court for permission to remove the children.
It is important to understand the complexity of struggling families, which may involve young parents with many children, limited education and employment options, periods of homelessness and other issues. Many are involved with multiple agencies. It is not unusual for families with multiple challenges to come to the attention of my agency or other social services agencies more than once. It is irresponsible to suggest that several child neglect allegations over a period of seven or eight years should lead to the conclusion that a family is incapable of caring for its children.
Brenda Donald, Washington
The writer is director of the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency.
The front page of the March 29 Metro section showed 2-week-old Khalie Fultz [“On warmer nights, left out in the cold”] and missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd [“Earlier alarming incidents at shelter”]. Our social system has not provided these innocent girls and their parents with the safe, basic shelter that we would regard as minimal. I feel a sense of foreboding when I contemplate the possible fate of both girls.
In stark contrast, the front page of the March 28 Metro section documented the arrival of 10 dogs who were rescued from Sochi, Russia. Here they will receive extraordinary care and be prepared for adoption by loving families [“From Russia, with love to give”]. What priorities we exhibit.
Undine A. Nash, Washington