The decision of a lifetime | Dec. 27
Shining a light on care challenges
This feature story was a poignant illustration of the challenges faced by child welfare officials, foster families, birth parents and the courts. For those charged with safeguarding the best interests of a child placed in state care, the tasks can be daunting, yet for the most part those tasked with this responsibility do an admirable job. Regrettably, it is cases like J.J.'s which, as your article suggests, cast a light on both the difficulties and solutions.
First, without question, "family finding" is a laudable objective, and one that should be undertaken in every case, immediately. However, strict adherence to "family finding" must not be the end-all and be-all for state officials in cases where a lack of timeliness in beginning the inquiry is glaringly apparent; where the found family member is questionable to be the child's "forever family;" and where the length of time the child has been in his/her current home suggests significant bonding and attachment.
The Strawser family should not have had to endure the fear of losing this precious child whom they essentially raised since birth, nor suffer the immeasurable emotional and financial toll of litigation.
Thankfully, the presiding judge made a ruling that will promote J.J.'s well-being now and forever. And the Strawser family has shown its decency to and respect for the birth family by insisting on maintaining J.J.'s birth connections postadoption.
For child welfare professionals, the message is one of gratitude and appreciation for the tireless, unyielding commitment to these kids. Just be mindful, please, that timeliness is critical when it comes to "family finding," like with precious J.J. Too many cases ignore this crucial component and the welfare of a child in a relentless search for long-lost family.
Jeanne T. Tate, adoption attorney, Tampa
Charity will close to avoid gay rights law Dec. 29
In dispute over charity, both sides are right
I applaud Catholic Charities of Illinois for standing true to their dogma, even given its unwanted consequences. Our secular laws don't need to be reversed; nor is this an instance of government persecution. On the contrary, both sides are standing where they should be.
I commend the freedom for religions to employ their theological mandates within their organizations, so long as it is financed and run by that organization. It is a different matter if they use my tax money to broadcast a message and advocate actions not condoned by myself and most other taxpayers.
Let religions finance their own message and rituals. Let governmental or secular agencies follow the laws to administer services that use our tax funding.
I might not go as far as Benjamin Franklin in his famous observation, but he's got a point: "When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
Nan Owens, Seffner
Who will pick up the slack?
Once again, society has thrown the baby out with the bath water. Shouldn't we now expect the groups who worked to create the hostile environment for agencies such as Catholic Charities to pick up the slack and provide the services provided by such groups? Or is this just another way of eliminating religious organizations from our culture?
Historically, religious social service agencies have provided lower-cost services than their government-run counterparts. That includes clinics, soup kitchens, food banks, shelters, etc.
To those of you who worked to make it impossible for religious social service agencies to function, what do you plan to tell those foster children who won't have a home because of your demands?
Debra Ford, Tierra Verde
Israeli crowd protests girl's plight | Dec. 28
Extremism is everywhere
On reading this article, I was struck by the similarities to the ultraconservative Muslims and their insistence on adherence to sharia laws. Despite many people's opinion to the contrary, extremist views are not the sole property of any one religion.
Sue Conrad, North Redington Beach
Keeping women down
Religion should be used to glorify God, not to subjugate women. Why is keeping the woman down the one thing all major religious groups have in common?
Janet Graber, St. Petersburg
Iowa's outsized role
Once again three states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — that combined don't have as many electoral votes as Florida will have disproportionate influence in determining the next president of the United States. Due to the earlier and ever-increasing news coverage of campaigns, a candidate must finish well in these places to show that his or her message resonates with voters.
Don't get me wrong: Iowa is a great place. I went to school and lived there for many years. But it doesn't reflect the nation demographically, and Iowans will be the first ones to tell you so.
Regardless, after this week's caucuses, at least one candidate will drop out of the presidential race because his or her message failed to reach "the American people."
Joseph H. Brown, Tampa
Judge in cancer fight gets a hand | Dec. 28
A tough adversary
Judge Dee Anna Farnell deserves accolades for her openness. She's served us well not only on the bench but as an outstanding lawyer.
Some 30 years ago, our careers launched, although her public defender service opposed mine at the State Attorney's Office. In one of our very first jury trials we opposed one another in a case involving a brawler accused of misdemeanor battery.
I and my fellow wet-behind-the-ears prosecutors snickered out loud at her "cake mix" defense. She presented her final argument, claiming all my proof mixed together never would bake a cake. Foolishly making light of the unconventional strategy, I learned the hard way about underestimating her tenacity.
That's right: The verdict was not guilty. Butt kicked, just like she'll kick the butt of this disease.
David A. Eaton Sr., St. Petersburg