Abuse of children may not be declining in MarylandKate...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 14, 1999

Abuse of children may not be declining in Maryland

Kate Shatzkin's article, "Conditions for Md. children mixed, survey finds" (April 7) was a welcome introduction to the "Maryland Kids Count Fact Book." However, I would caution anyone from concluding that child abuse and neglect are declining in Maryland.

The Kids Count data only indicate a drop in the number of abuse and neglect cases confirmed by Child Protective Service workers. Children's advocates are greatly concerned that Child Protective Service workers are ruling out an increasingly high percentage of these cases.

It is possible that state workers are more accurately screening out erroneous abuse allegations. But there are reasons to think this is not the case.

First, within Maryland the percentage of ruled-out cases varies dramatically from one jurisdiction to another. It is unlikely that the percentage of false reports varies to such an extent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Second, national data indicate that child abuse and neglect is rising. It is unlikely that Maryland has miraculously been spared this unfortunate trend. Third, additional procedural and paperwork requirements have increased the state agency's workload, but its staffing level has risen little.

So, while more analysis is needed, there is reason to believe that overwhelmed and inadequately trained Child Protective Service workers are responding to increased reports by ruling out more and more cases.

Advocates for children last year got legislation passed (House Bill 1133) that mandates lower caseloads and provides for better training for caseworkers. This year advocates have worked to ensure independent review of Child Protective Service cases through Senate Bill 464 and House Bill 958.

The legislature passed these bills. They await action from the governor.

Charlie Cooper, Baltimore

The writer is chair of the Coalition to Protect Maryland's Children.

A taxing time for war resisters

On March 20 you reprinted a 50-year old item ("50 years ago in The Sun") about a Baltimore man named Gelston McNeil who refused to pay the portion of his taxes that would go to military purposes.

The item is old, but Mr. McNeil's is not an isolated incident. Millions of Americans for various religious and moral reasons have determined that war is wrong and that they cannot participate in it. They are conscientious objectors (COs). As April 15 approaches, thousands of COs, who see that today's military system forces us to pay for war rather than to use our bodies in it, struggle with the decision not to pay some or all of their taxes.

There is a solution: the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill would allow COs to pay 100 percent of their taxes toward non-military purposes. Sincere COs would be able to participate in the tax system while the military budget would remain the same. The Treasury would save money through increased revenues and decreased IRS collection efforts.

Many COs impoverish themselves to remain below the taxable level. This bill would allow them to earn full salaries, and obey both the law and their conscience.

Rachel Harrison, Bel Air

New steel mill will benefit many

The Sun's April 11 article on Bethlehem Steel's new Sparrows Point mill ("Cold Mill, hot prospects") noted that the company "made sure it was dealt the best hand possible before it agreed to put the new mill at Sparrows Point."

Isn't that what companies are in business to do: get the best bang for their buck?

Contrary to what your article suggested, the United Steelworkers of America did more than chip in to this process; they showed the way. Job reductions are never easy to deal with, but here at Sparrows Point our union partnership mechanism gave us the framework to handle these changes.

Now we will become the best mill in the steel industry. This will benefit not only the plant's employees but its suppliers, freight haulers and the the community businesses which depend on the plant and its employees.

The Cold Mill plant is a win-win situation.

LeRoy R. McClelland Sr., Essex

Public needs all sides on controversial issues

I was surprised to read in an April 1 editorial ("Senate should approve gay rights legislation") that I had spent "$1,000 in taxpayers dollars" to present a viewpoint contrary to the governor's on a bill that was then before the legislature. I would have thought your duty as a news organization would be to check the facts. As a matter of fact, no taxpayer money was used in my efforts.

However, taxpayers' funds were used by the governor to lobby senators heavily on his gay rights bill. State agencies employ at least 61 legislative liaisons at an annual cost of about $3 million. These liaisons work as defacto lobbyists for the governor's agenda every day.

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