Group homes for young offenders hurt communitiesThe Sun's...

Letters to the Editor

May 04, 1999

Group homes for young offenders hurt communities

The Sun's recent editorials concerning group homes (April 25 and 26) suggest that they are the best way to treat the juvenile delinquests you call emotionally disabled. But where is the proof?

The recent protest against placing a group home in Worthington Valley was not against the truly disabled or senior citizens; we would have no anxiety about such neighbors. Rather, we questioned the safety and effectiveness of group homes for juvenile offenders.

Finding that group homes were ineffective, California has recently undertaken "Project Uplift," which replaces group homes with "wraparound services" that give children and families intensive therapy and aid at home.

Closer to home, the District of Columbia recently closed numerous group homes, including some run by companies that operate Maryland homes.

In Worthington Valley, Maryland Family Advocacy Services (FAS) asked for a license to operate a staff-secure, short-term transitional facility for eight juvenile males who had been released from criminal detention centers.

They would have required 24-hour supervision and been prohibited from interacting with the community. If they can't interact with the commmunity, what is the benefit of the group home setting?

In Worthington Valley, state officials never approached the community until news of the group home plans leaked. They understood that placing this home in an ethnically diverse community of hard-working people with young children was going to be a problem.

Claims that the Fair Housing Acts protects homes like this are questionable, as the act allows for exceptions when the homes threaten public health and safety.

The state seems to have created a bureaucracy mandated to get kids out of institutions and into group homes -- no matter the cost to neighborhoods. For-profit companies with nonprofit sounding names have stepped in to make a lucrative living off government subsidies for these homes.

If we really care about these kids, we should draft good legislation that will help rehabilitate them in their own homes. Parents should be responsible for their kids, not some distant neighborhood.

Alan B. Fabian, Chestnut Ridge

Homes and neighborhoods can work together better

"What happens to a neighborhood when a group home opens? Often, nothing." So began The Sun's April 26 editorial, "Easing tensions over group home."

For those who provide supports to people with disabilities, what you call "nothing" is an acceptable outcome.

Most community organizations, however, strive for much more. Community programs that support people with disabilities offer the hope of meaningful lives that are connected in real ways to neighbors, family and friends.

The Sun is be commended for its responsible perspective on group homes. Rather than fuel innuendo and hype, you've offered calm reflection to those embroiled in this debate.

Diane Hutto McComb, Severna Park

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Services for Persons with Developmental Disabilities Inc.

Route 219 not expanded in Garrett County

In The Sun's April 28 article "3 Md. road projects rated among most wasteful in U.S.," Taxpayers for Common Sense characterized "the expansion of U.S. Route 219 in Garrett County" as one of those projects. This is incorrect.

The only U.S. 219 project in Maryland's six-year transportation plan is a two-lane, five-mile bypass still in the preliminary planning stages for the Garrett County seat of Oakland.

The taxpayer group said that Maryland committed $700 million from the Transportation Equity Act to the Route 219/Continental One travel corridor. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The state has committed no money for the development of Continental One.

Taxpayers for Common Sense has every right to voice its opposition to any government highway project, but it has a responsibility to present the facts.

David Moe, Oakland

The writer is president of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.

Reimer was right about the guns ...

I say "Amen" to Susan Reimer's April 27 column, "Bottom line: The guns must go." As she says, "A kid can't mow down his classmates with a kitchen knife or a set of brass knuckles. He can only do that with guns."

That's the perfect answer to the gun lobby's cry of "Guns don't kill; people do."

No one denies the problems of a society that leads a few teen misfits to carry out mass murder are more complex than just easy access to guns. But while we struggle to deal with the complex issues, let's do what we can to limit angry people's ability to express rage against innocent victims.

Dr. Gary Goshorn, Towson

I agree completely with Ms. Reimer's account of guns and the Columbine High School tragedy. I am tired of all the pro-gun rhetoric that says that if we ban guns, we will still have problems like the explosives the students planted. I'm sorry, but no one died that day from explosives. They were all killed by guns.

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