Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 14, 2007

Inflexible funding extends foster care

The column "Maryland's foster kids need help now" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 7) made a compelling case for immediate foster care reform.

But no state should have to undertake this reform project alone. Instead, the nation needs to modernize the federal-state partnership established a generation ago to serve all abused or neglected children.

For instance, as the column made clear, children and families in Maryland and nationwide can benefit from programs such as family counseling, drug treatment and guardianship programs, which help keep families together or limit a child's time in foster care.

So why don't we have more such programs?

The conclusion of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care was that "the current federal funding mechanisms for child welfare encourage an over-reliance on foster care at the expense of other services."

Reforming the federal financing system could let states provide more services to keep families together and prevent the need for foster care placement, or when foster care is necessary, help children exit the system more quickly to safe, permanent families through reunification, adoption or guardianship.

The need to reform federal financing is urgent: 500,000 of our children are in foster care, and they spend, on average, two birthdays in care.

They have waited long enough.

Jim O'Hara

Washington

The writer is a managing director for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Funding for families could improve care

The large caseloads facing Maryland's foster care workers drain their limited time away from providing crisis intervention and mental health and other support services for children and families in the child welfare system ("Maryland's foster kids need help now," Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 7).

Nearly half the children living in foster care families in Maryland are in the homes of grandparents and other relatives.

Yet federal foster care funds cannot be used to support foster children who live with relatives if those relatives choose to become legal guardians and exit foster care.

As a result, many children remain in family foster care longer than is necessary.

If Congress helped relatives care for children by allowing states to use foster care funds to fund guardians, these families could get the financial assistance they need, social workers could spend more time where it is needed most and an estimated 20,000 children nationwide who are living in family foster care could leave foster care for permanent, loving homes with relatives rather than languishing in an overloaded foster care system.

Donna Butts

Washington

The writer is executive director of Generations United.

NASA needs to study the human factor

The incident regarding astronaut Lisa M. Nowak calls dramatic and public attention to something researchers involved in the design of long-duration space missions already know: Life in space will not be easy for mission participants ("Time to change culture that makes astronauts crack," Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 11).

Unfortunately, NASA has been sluggish in dealing directly with the human factor.

NASA needs to recognize the value of long-duration simulations to expand our knowledge of the systems required to support endeavors such as a three-year mission to Mars.

Henry H. Emurian

Baltimore

Let our leaders fly the way citizens do

There is no question that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deserves security when she travels. However, the use of military aircraft to take her to California nonstop truly is a misuse and waste of taxpayers' money ("More on Pelosi, planes," Feb. 9).

Above all, our elected officials are public servants.

The argument certainly could be made that as our servants, they should travel as most of us travel - on commercial flights with layovers, delays and all the other ills we encounter.

But somehow, somewhere along the way, the rules changed and many elected officials seem to believe they should enjoy inherent perks.

Cindy L. Sexton

Baltimore

Cost of regulations can exceed benefits

In "What Others Are Saying" (editorial, Feb. 12), The Sun repeats part of a Boston Globe editorial critical of the nomination of Susan Dudley to lead the agency that oversees federal regulations.

The passage The Sun reprints asserts that "only an undue faith in the ability of the market to correct problems created by industry could have led Ms. Dudley to oppose, as she did, EPA's efforts to keep arsenic out of drinking water."

If you want a deeper sense of what others are saying, read legal theorist Cass Sunstein's writings on regulations designed to reduce arsenic in drinking water.

Mr. Sunstein is a widely respected and energetic advocate of active government; he certainly has no "undue faith" in markets.

Yet even he admits that the benefits of further reducing arsenic in drinking water might be swamped by the costs of the regulation.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Fairfax, Va.

The writer is chairman of the economics department at George Mason University.

ID law is safeguard against illegal aliens

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