Killing Hope | Editorial

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It’s impossible to miss the symbolism of the murder of a little girl named Hope in this season of desperation in the face of the forces of murder and chaos.

The murder of seven-year-old McKenzie Hope Rechia stands out from the gang crimes that landed two children in hospital last week. Hope, as the family called her, lost her life in shocking and bizarre circumstances that indicate she was murdered by a relative who confessed hours later to an imam. After confirming the death of the child, he called the police.

Everything about this tragedy screams neglect – the desperate conditions in which mother and child lived in an unfinished one-room shack with no electricity; the total absence of the man who fathered this child with a teenager and, as if all that weren’t enough, the report that the parent who confessed to the murder was diagnosed with schizophrenia after being hospitalized following the death of another child.

These circumstances provide a textbook case of how people in desperate need of help fall through the cracks, with tragic consequences. Presumably, the person with serious mental illness was diagnosed within the public health system, which is connected to a community health network with local resources to follow patients like her. We also assume that community health staff would have contacted social workers about this case, given the precarious existence of mother and child. In addition, that between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development and Family Affairs, the Children’s Office would have been alerted to the presence of a child in this environment.

All reports surrounding Hope’s murder indicate that she was a critically endangered child, invisible, and therefore unknown to the institutions in place to protect vulnerable children like her.

In case any civil servant is tempted to waste time passing the buck defensively, we suggest instead that the Department of Health, Department of Social Development and the Children’s Authority get together and look into this matter, with a view to sequencing events from the moment of the parent’s diagnosis to Friday’s tragedy, and to examine what could be done to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

It is often only in the tragedy that we, the public, discover the depth of the horror experienced by children in this society. Their realities have pierced our comfortable assumptions about being a society that protects and cares for children. In the murder, we discovered children who were born and died without their birth ever being recorded in any official registry. In one case, they were given obscenities for names. In their deaths, we have known children subjected to relentless beatings and sexual abuse until their broken little bodies could take no more. Some have been brought to live far from the others, deep in the forest; others live among us, their stories known but untold until exposed by death.

Today we mourn the loss of hope.

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