Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 21, 2005

Confidentiality used to conceal pattern of abuse

I am writing in praise of Jonathan Rockoff's article on how the Department of Human Resources and the juvenile court system have conspired to twist the privilege of confidentiality into a way to conceal the daily abuses and deadly mistakes that damage the abused and neglected children in state custody ("Critics aim to reduce secrecy in foster care," April 17).

The privilege of confidentiality belongs to the child, not to the agency, just as the doctor-patient privilege belongs to the patient, not to the doctor.

Every child in foster care in Maryland is represented by an attorney. Proceedings in juvenile court are often adversarial - with the child's attorney arguing for better services for the child and the Department of Social Services' attorney concerned with conserving the agency's budget and protecting it from liability.

Determinations about the extent of secrecy surrounding the circumstances of a child's treatment by the agency should be made on a case by case basis by the child's advocate or by a guardian ad litem requested by child's counsel.

The death count alone is sufficient evidence that children in foster care are not being properly cared for or protected.

And by what rationale in law or public policy do the institutional caretakers claim that accountability is trumped by confidentiality?

Linda Koban

Baltimore

The writer is an assistant director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Baltimore and a former Baltimore City Juvenile Court Master.

Group home woes remind us to be open

The Sun's articles on group homes were amazing ("Maryland's Troubled Group Homes," April 10-13).

They were very well researched and well written. They provided us with excellent information about the problems in the homes and the government's lack of oversight.

It is even more amazing that the state government, which has had the information on group homes in its files for years, has allowed the problems to continue.

I commend The Sun and its writers for taking the time and effort to bring the sad facts to our attention.

This is another example of the public's need for the news media (and the public) to have access to the government files.

William Obriecht

Baltimore

Towson Circle plan bad for neighbors

Many opinions have been expressed over the proposed Towson Circle III development ("Towson project, citizens collide," April 17).

I spent more than 30 years in Towson working in law enforcement, both in the community and on the campus. And my experience is that students mostly do not support the businesses in the community unless they are bars and places to drink and party.

Towson already has the stigma of being a "college town" instead of being known as the county seat. And, in my opinion, for long-term residents of this area, this project will not be good.

I urge the county to proceed with the utmost caution and make a better plan for Towson's future.

John L. Grumbach

Rosedale

Investing pensions in stocks too risky

So the stock market took another big tumble this week ("Dreary data send markets plunging," April 16). That certainly doesn't make anyone in my family eager to gamble their Social Security payments on Wall Street.

Under such a plan, can you imagine the fears of the seniors of the future, when the stock market goes up and down, and up and down again, knowing their retirement safety is directly involved?

It's too risky.

Carole Fisher

Ellicott City

Exaggerating threat of domestic terror

I read with interest The Sun's article about domestic terrorists, as I have never understood the hype about the Oklahoma City bombing ("War on homegrown terrorism proceeding with quiet urgency," April 17).

Yes, it was terrible, but there has never been a pattern of those kinds of attacks or of prominent organizations espousing the views or demands of those behind the Oklahoma City attack. I do not feel threatened.

The Sun's article did not dismiss these feelings. In fact, I felt like I was being fed a liberal mantra to beware of "conservative" extremists, or at least that the article was biased toward an exaggerated concern with such threats.

Geoffrey Smith

Reisterstown

High-sounding words conceal real goals

Michael Kinsley is usually on target, but unless he means "The neoconservative movement's 180-degree turn" (Opinion * Commentary, April 17) ironically, he is off base this time.

There is no real need for the neocons to explain their apparent reversal in now supporting democratic nation-building projects in strategically important countries. The reason is, of course, that they haven't changed at all.

They use words such as "democracy" and "freedom," but they never intend them to mean the things they would mean to, say, a high school civics class.

These words are used deceitfully to mask their true intentions with high--sounding rhetoric. And, anyway, why would anyone take any of their statements at face value, after their clever invention of the contrived rationale for the invasion of Iraq?

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