Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 17, 2006

Protect the privacy of the case records

The editorial "Cases still closed" (April 7) got it wrong when it chastised legislators for not supporting a bill that would have allowed the public release of child welfare records in the event of a tragedy.

These records contain very personal information about families who find themselves in difficult circumstances, not to mention a wealth of private details about neighbors, kin, teachers, church members, services providers, friends, volunteers and others.

Securing accountability for the child welfare system through the public disclosure of information is important. But legislation passed in 1998 allows release of specific but comprehensive information after a tragedy.

This year's legislation would have eliminated the parameters governing disclosure and abolished the requirement that the interests of surviving siblings and other household members be considered.

This is incompatible with the Social Work Code of Ethics, which requires that "in all instances, social workers should disclose the least amount of confidential information necessary to achieve the desired purpose; only information that is directly relevant to the purpose for which the disclosure is made should be revealed."

Families who come to the attention of child welfare agencies and the many people who support them have the right to some assurance of privacy.

Existing law allows for limited but thorough disclosure of records after a death or serious injury. And outside reviews, which include community participation, are mandated to analyze child welfare records for trends and flaws and to promote policy changes that will benefit children at risk.

If these review teams are not meeting their mission, surely they should be strengthened, not marginalized.

But disclosure of child welfare records without limitations is hardly a protection, and certainly no strategy for reform.

Judith M. Schagrin

Baltimore

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

Wal-Mart law just levels playing field

Was the Maryland legislature's overturn of the governor's veto of the "Wal-Mart bill" anti-business? I don't think so ("Assembly minds business," April 12).

As a former business owner, I have long understood that it is my responsibility to provide affordable health care for my employees.

The only reason that this legislation is referred to as the "Wal-Mart bill" is that Wal-Mart is the only large employer in Maryland that has not accepted its corporate responsibility to do so, thus forcing the state of Maryland to use Medicaid funds (paid for out of our taxes) to provide health care for some of these employees.

Requiring Wal-Mart to play fair, as other businesses do, is part of what I expect from my legislators.

Nick Sheridan

Baltimore

No one benefits from war with Iran

War with Iran is looking increasingly likely, even though President Bush denies having any plan to go to war ("U.S. divided on course in Iran," April 13).

We are fighting one war that started because of twisted truth, and now we are on the brink of a standoff with another country we suggest may have a nuclear capability.

But no one on the planet would benefit from an exchange of weaponry between Iran and the United States.

We must find a diplomatic solution to this explosive situation.

Jeanne Ruddock

Baldwin

Peace must be made before it can be kept

As a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, I must say it should surprise no one that the United Nations appears impotent in dealing with the Darfur crisis ("Sudan OKs Darfur visit by U.N. official," April 6).

The United Nations is not (and never was intended to be) an army; rather, it is a political cooperative that reaches its goals through a consensus of its member nations.

Thus, political decisions reached (only after slow debate) in New York will have little practical effect on the ground in hot spots such as Sudan.

And such peacekeeping missions often fail through naivete.

Sometimes, peace must be made (with an army) before it can be "kept" (through politics).

Joe Hammell

Waynesboro, Pa.

Winfrey's attitude no help to schools

I was dismayed when I read Dan Rodricks' column "There are other ways to help city kids, Oprah" (April 13). Unfortunately, there are too many people who feel the way that Oprah Winfrey does. And unfortunately, our city children suffer for this.

How are our children ever going to get their test scores up if city schools continue to lack the proper equipment?

For far too long, our city schoolchildren have had to contend with substandard supplies, and our teachers are frustrated. If the teachers are frustrated, how do you think the children feel?

If more people would put money into our city school system, maybe there would be more improvement. However, if everyone feels that it would be a waste to aid our schools, who do you think will suffer?

Our children.

Cheryl Ragsdale

Owings Mills

Evangelicals offer a sad form of faith

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