Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 03, 2003

Hiring freeze hampers efforts of child welfare

It was encouraging to read of state Secretary of Human Resources Christopher J. McCabe's commitment to improving outcomes for families and children served by Maryland's struggling child welfare system ("Improving Maryland's child welfare system," Opinion

Commentary, Nov. 26). What was missing, however, is a commitment to the most pivotal aspect of the child welfare system -- the work force.

The federal child and family service reviews that Mr. McCabe mentioned show that that frequency of contact with a caseworker is strongly linked with positive outcomes for the state's most vulnerable families and children. This finding has been reinforced by a General Accounting Office report on the child welfare work force, which found that a professional, well-trained and well-supervised workforce was the key to clients' safety and well-being.

The importance of the workforce was also recognized by Maryland's legislators when, in 1998, the Child Welfare Workforce Initiative was passed after several child tragedies. Along with other requirements, the legislation mandated that caseload sizes be lowered to meet nationally recognized standards.

When that legislation was passed, the state needed 217 caseworkers to meet those standards; after a hiring freeze dating back to October 2001, the child welfare system is now almost 500 positions away from meeting those important caseload standards.

During his campaign, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made a written promise to exempt child welfare from the hiring freeze. If Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. McCabe are sincere about their commitment to improving the child welfare system, there is nothing more critical than an adequately staffed and professionally trained and supervised work force.

Janice Fristad

Baltimore

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

With all due respect to state Human Resources Secretary Christopher J. McCabe and irrespective of Floyd R. Blair's capabilities to serve as director of Baltimore City's Department of Social Services, it must be noted that building renovation and multimillion-dollar investments in telephone and computer equipment cannot shore up any social service system serving Maryland's most vulnerable families and children.

All local departments of social services have been under the state hiring freeze for about two years. Statewide, the current workforce is significantly understaffed. Thus the "frontline workers" Mr. McCabe speaks of in his column are dangerously stressed because of caseloads that are too large to manage safely.

Just as all state systems can improve resource allocation, so too can social services. However, technological upgrades cannot supplant the qualified case managers and social workers required if we are to meet the federal benchmarks for child safety and otherwise serve the needs of the thousands of abused and neglected children in Maryland's child welfare system.

Lucy Bassin

Baltimore

The writer is a clinical instructor in child welfare at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Layoffs bode well for city taxpayers

The current layoffs are extremely unfortunate for each individual who has been given a layoff notice by the Baltimore school system ("710 city school employees get notice of Jan. 1 layoffs," Nov. 26). But the move is long overdue and sends a positive signal to city taxpayers and to the school teachers who are not part of the budget cutbacks.

I would hope that the laid-off employees receive meaningful job placement assistance and special consideration for other city agency openings.

And as a resident of Baltimore County, I can only wonder how much unnecessary bureaucracy our schools have.

Robert D. Moore

Cockeysville

Speed not only cause of traffic fatalities

The article "Traffic deaths rise in states with higher speed, report says" (Nov. 25) failed to note quite a number of things other than higher speed limits that could contribute to the rise in traffic deaths. For instance, the size of the population and the number of vehicles registered and young drivers on the road would have an impact on such statistics, as would cell phone users, tailgating and the failure to use turning signals or stop at stop signs.

Peter Bell

Monkton

Medicare reform makes rich richer

I have to comment on President Bush's reconstruction of Medicare ("Sweeping Medicare reform bill passes," Nov. 26).

First of all, it looks to me like he's trying to destroy Medicare, a wonderful plan that has served the senior community very well since the 1960s.

Second, the drug plan is awful. The AARP has said that it's better than nothing. But why should we have to settle for that? We should demand the best. After all, we recently approved more than $80 billion of spending on Iraq.

I have a drug plan that is included in my husband's retirement package that is so much better than the one the new law will offer.

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