Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 20, 2005

Foster care doesn't ensure safety of youths

The most important reason to open court proceedings in child abuse cases is that it might finally put to rest pernicious myths like the one The Sun's editorial "Open all juvenile courts" (Feb. 14) cites: the myth that courts use an "overarching `keep the family together' philosophy at the expense of a child's safety."

Were the juvenile courts open, we would see that most cases are nothing like the horror stories that rightly make headlines. We would see how often children are taken from a family because a parent's poverty has been confused with neglect.

We would see how many other cases fall between the extremes, with parents neither all victim nor all villain.

We would see how often children wind up worse off in foster care. We would see that judges are far more prone to wield rubber stamps than gavels.

After seeing all that, we might ask if the real reason some children "known to the system" die is that its workers are so overwhelmed with children who don't belong in foster care that they lack the time to make good decisions or credible cases.

Maryland takes children away from families at a rate 20 percent higher than the national average, yet that hasn't stopped the tragedies.

In contrast, in Illinois, which takes children at a rate roughly one-third that of Maryland, independent court-appointed monitors have found that as removals declined, child safety improved.

While The Sun is waiting for the courthouse doors to open, perhaps it should look into what really works in child welfare, and what is just a myth.

Richard Wexler

Alexandria, Va.

The writer is executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Gays can't give up the fight for rights

Michael Olesker's take on the gay marriage debate and his observations of a tired executive director of Equality Maryland and rallies clouded by rain and cold make me ask, What is he trying to say ("Endless gay rights debate exacts an emotional toll," Feb. 15)?

Of course gays and lesbians are tired of this debate. But to retreat is not an option.

Who would say, "OK, if you really feel strongly about it, go ahead and amend the Constitution to discriminate against me for the rest of my life?"

The endless batting around of gays and lesbians in politics has been overwhelming. And, it's true, there is no end in sight.

But what's the alternative? All families need protections. The rights given to heterosexual families aren't just bonuses for being straight. They play an important function in family stability during times of distress or crisis.

For instance, if a parent is sick or passes away, the remaining family members are usually sure to stay together and to stay financially afloat through survivor's benefits and the state's inheritance laws. But those rights often do not apply to same-sex couples' households.

And we can't stop fighting until they do, no matter how weary we get.

I hope Mr. Olesker gets that.

Aimee Darrow

Baltimore

Apply the lead laws to all properties

"City officials may oppose lead paint legislation" (Feb. 16) and other articles in The Sun have addressed the political positions of various lawmakers. But they are never really clear about the justification for the lead paint bills.

If, indeed, the main concern is to prevent lead poisoning in all children, why do all of these bills, and their funding for law enforcement and relocation expenses, only address rental properties?

Not all children live in rental properties.

Preventive programs should include testing of all children and all the housing in which they reside.

Betty Backes

Glen Burnie

North Korea poses a very real threat

In his column "Peace with North Korea" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 15), Bradley K. Martin states, "South Korea has grown strong enough not to worry a great deal about an invasion from the North." This is a head-in-the-sand bit of wishful thinking.

North Korea's modern, million-plus-man army could flatten the small U.S. troop presence in South Korea and the South Korean army in less than two weeks.

Then, smiling Kim Jong II could boast of his benevolent reunification of the two Koreas, in spite of thousands of civilian casualties.

Moreover, he could effectively block any U.S. nuclear strike on Pyongyang by holding hostage the thousands of American prisoners of war that this short, violent action would produce.

R. L. Roberts

Timonium

Frivolous lawsuit a waste of money

The hyperbole contained in The Sun's editorial response to U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr.'s ruling is almost too ridiculous for comment ("The big chill," editorial, Feb. 16).

As the only newspaper in town, I suppose it's no wonder that The Sun's reaction to the ruling is akin to that of a spoiled only-child.

Having been called out for bias and mischaracterizations and slapped on the wrist by the governor, The Sun is now unwilling to accept that it didn't get its way from Judge Quarles, either.

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