Sen. Neall's party-hop was dishearteningState Sen. Robert...


November 28, 1999

Sen. Neall's party-hop was disheartening

State Sen. Robert Neall's explanation for his switch to the Democratic Party is disheartening. It is a perfect example of why so many people have a cynical attitude towards politics.

Mr. Neall switched political parties, yet has the audacity to tell us that it was not a political decision. This sort of nonsensical rambling makes Mr. Neall a perfect fit for the Maryland Democratic Party.

As a proud Maryland Republican, I am glad he left. The Republican Party has no room for deceitful politicians who twist words and try to manipulate public opinion.

Joe Beavers, Davidsonville

Confused about ruling on segregated will

Each day, I understand more clearly my low esteem of the courts. Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan rules that a will made 37 years ago by a person living during segregation is unlawful and cannot stand.

Would the judge please explain to me if his ruling is true and correct according to law, why can we. have a "Black Miss America," or funding solely for "black colleges," or why do black police officers in Baltimore have their own union? As one who is ignorant of the law, I find this ambiguous.

Vivian Vann, Glen Burnie

Boy Scout's `Eagle' project was uplifting

One recent Saturday I witnessed a project in progress of a young man from Pasadena who is a member of the Boy Scouts of America and who is working toward his Eagle Scout rank.

His project was the replacement of a portion of the parsonage roof for a small church in Lansdowne.

Jason was responsible for organizing the workers, procuring materials and overseeing the events of the day, including tearing off five layers of shingles, replacing plywood and shingles, painting of the chimney and cleaning up the grounds.

Needless to say how grateful this elderly congregation is for the work put forth by these young boys and their leaders.

As we ride through out communities and parks, we see many projects that have been the work of other Boy Scouts such as Jason.

My hat goes off to these young men and to their leaders who are teaching them to be upright, responsible citizens. The Boy Scouts of America deserve support from all of us.

Lois Neilson, Lansdowne

Halt second-class status for foster parents

In Maryland, and across America, we continue to treat one class of people as second-class citizens: foster children and the adults who care for them.

It is estimated that as many as 700,000 children in the nation are in foster care. Approximately 40 percent of these children remain in foster care until their 18th birthday. Then, federal government payments usually stop, and many caregivers ask the children to leave.

Can you imagine a typical 18-year-old being cut off from all family support and left alone in the world?

Legislation pending in Congress would remedy this situation by doubling to $140 million the funding for the Independent Living Program (ILP), which since 1986 has helped foster children become self-sufficient. This would permit states to provide housing, training and other support to foster children until they reach 21 years of age.

However, the federal legislation does not address the second-class status accorded foster parents in our society. It is time to recognize the work that foster parents do in repairing the broken lives of children in their care.

Last January, I introduced in the Maryland Senate the Foster Parents Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, it did not pass. The legislature will get another chance next January, when I reintroduce the legislation.

Until recently, a foster parent had little opportunity for input in the permanent placement of a foster child in his or her care.

Last year, the Maryland General Asembly passed legislation to permit a foster parent to make a statement to the court in an out-of-home placement proceeding.This year, I successfully sponsored legislation expanding this provision to permit an attorney for a foster parent, pre-adoptive or adoptive parent to receive notice and to speak at out-of-home placement hearings.

Although these bills were approved overwhelmingly by the General Assembly, we still need to ensure that basic services are provided to the foster parents in order for them to fulfill their vital, difficult role.

The Foster Parents Bill of Rights would ensure that foster parents, in contracting with social service agencies to provide a home for foster children, receive basic considerations such as adequate training, substantial information about the background or medical history of the child and timely financial reimbusement. They would be given the opportunity to help plan services for the child and a fair opportunity to respond to complaints that may be lodged against them.

Maryland's Foster Parents Bill of Rights, which is patterned after an Illinois law, is good for everyone involved. It would give foster parents a chance to have input into very significant and sometimes traumatic decisions affecting the child's future. It guarantees that the people who in all probability know and understand the child best can speak to what is best for the child. And it allows our social service agencies and the courts to chart a course for the child's future only after hearing the best possible information from all sides.

Strengthening the role of foster parents will strengthen the children entrusted in their care. Coupled with a stronger Independent Living Program, many more foster children will be able to reach their rightful potential.

Jean W. Roesser, Annapolis

The writer is a state senator, representing part of Montgomery County.

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