Sunday, January 13, 2008

Say Four Prayers

N'Kiah Fogle, 6 years old

If you live in Washington, four people have been on your mind all week: Tatiana, N'Kiah, Brittany, and Aja. These four girls (ages 17,11,6, and 5) aren't the latest teen band on Nickelodeon. In fact, the likelihood they ever saw Nickelodeon or the anything close to the happy-go-lucky lives depicted there are slim to none. Rather, these four girls were found dead this week, in a brick rowhouse on a poor street in southeast DC, where their mentally ill mother murdered them one by one. When they were discovered this week, their bodies were so decomposed, the medical examiner could only say they had been dead at least four months. And that they were malnourished.

The girls were discovered by the U.S. marshalls who had come to evict them from their home. And even though social workers and policemen had shown up repeatedly over a period of months, it is ironic that in the end it was only nonpayment of rent that would bring someone who would have the wherewithal and to push their way through the front door past their crazy mother.

In DC, the fallibility of our social services is infamous, but this horrible event has laid even the most cynical of us low. School authorities, social workers, police officers, and hospital staff all interacted with these girls and their parents at some time over the past two years. Everyone seemed to think the mom was nuts, some even thought she was holding her oldest girl hostage. Yet, no one had the wherewithal to push aside the crazy mother blocking the door (literally) or take these kids into custody or at the very least ask about them. Neighbors ignored the terrible smell coming from the rowhouse next door. No one pondered why all their furniture was in the backyard. And since they were being home schooled (a high-fallutin word for parent-endorsed truancy), not even their principal bothered to find out why they weren't in class.

Of course, now everyone on their street is festooning their front yard with teddy bears and signs wishing them godspeed. And their mother was arraigned with three rows of relatives sitting in support behind her.

To say that I am disgusted, disheartened, and demoralized hardly covers it.

1 comment:

cindyl said...

My heart goes out to these children, and to you. As a public school teacher, I see trauma to precious children (the high schoolers I teach) way too often. I've had to call Child Protective Services more times than I'd ever have imagined.
We must find a way to reach these parents, and to step beyond and save children. We are failing them.