Maryland must begin to get serious about children's needs...

Letters to the Editor

February 03, 1999

Maryland must begin to get serious about children's needs

In response to your article "Baltimore to be part of pilot program to ease social services" (Jan. 29): The social work community and children's advocacy groups were jubilant over the passage last year of the Child Welfare Workforce Initiative. We believed that this law, while not perfect, would resolve the most serious problems affecting the care of our most vulnerable citizens -- abused and neglected children, as well as children in foster care and their families.

Now, we see signs that the system won't be fixed because of an unwillingness to spend what is necessary to implement the law.

FOR THE RECORD - A letter that ran yesterday about social services funding for children should have stated that the state is budgeting $25 million to upgrade positions and convert contractual positions. The Sun regrets the error.

The plan to lower caseloads by initiating "pilot" projects (a misnomer -- the projects have been proven effective) in a few jurisdictions and shifting responsibility to some counties is clearly an effort to reduce and delay state spending. The justification is that the state is budgeting $2.5 million to upgrade positions and convert 480 contractual positions, and that to ask for additional funds is unrealistic.

Your article indicated that the bill was in response to last year's highly publicized cases of child abuse and deaths; in fact, child advocacy groups and many legislators, including Del. Maggie McIntosh, have worked tirelessly over the years to undo the damage caused by these budget cutbacks.

Linda Ellard, director of the state's Social Services Administration, is quoted as being unwilling to request an additional $50 million to reduce caseloads, without which social workers will continue to be overwhelmed and children will continue to fall through the cracks. Yet, SSA envisions "a Maryland where people independently support themselves and their families and where individuals are safe from abuse and neglect" and its mission is to "aggressively pursue opportunities to assist people in economic needs, increase prevention efforts and protect vulnerable children and adults."

How can SSA possibly meet these goals without adequate funding? If it is forced to delay implementing the law's mandate to reduce caseloads statewide, then we will have lost an opportunity to finally do it right. If we believe that the welfare of our children comes first, then we must appropriate in our state budget what it will take to implement the law now!

Moya Atkinson, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

At last, a plan to reward experienced teachers

Bravo to Dr. Anthony Marchione of the Baltimore County Board of Education for his recommendation to increase the salaries of experienced teachers with at least 15 years in the system. For too long experienced teachers have been ignored.

Helen Zeitzoff, Baltimore

Two readers' views on Scott Shane's commentary

There are times when a reader is moved after reading an article written by a reporter, but those times are few.

Today, I had the extreme pleasure of thoroughly enjoying an article ("The crime of walking while white," Opinion Commentary, Jan. 28) by Scott Shane. His writing style was fluid and conjured up images that played across the emotional spectrum from excitement to deep sadness.

I just wanted to express my delight at Mr. Shane's superb writing ability and wish there were more reporters equipped with his insightful manipulation of the written word.

Laura M. Cline, Pasadena

Scott Shane's commentary is sadly typical of the media's fixation on racial profiling by police.

Even as the writer begrudgingly admitted that the officer was just doing her job and "basically meant well," he could not help feeling resentment toward this "rude police demand."

I wonder why no resentment was reserved for the criminals who so brazenly conduct their criminal activity on our streets. Dangerous criminals roaming the streets and burned out houses are described as merely a fact of life, with no adverse commentary given.

In fact, a criminal is described as a "vigilant scout" while the police are characterized as rude and racist. Unbelievable.

I, for one, commend the officer for her vigilance and dedication to her job. I'll reserve my resentment for the criminals and the media, until they get it right.

Pete Stanford, Crofton

Women's privacy and the right to choose

Where does the Jan. 28 letter writer("Abortion is violent act: clinics should be closed") get the idea that women everywhere are being counseled against their will into getting abortions they do not want?

The anti-choice movement wants to take away what should always be the right of women -- to make life decisions that are best for them and not have anyone else involved, especially the government.

That right to privacy is at the heart of the groundbreaking Roe vs. Wade decision. Privacy, the right to make your own life decisions without someone else making them.

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