I was visiting St. Petersburg when I read the article concerning the death of infant Gabrielle Crawford. As a retired children's protective services worker for the state of Michigan, I would like to offer these suggestions and observations:
• In Michigan, when a parent previously had children removed and parental rights terminated, subsequent infants born to that parent were usually removed immediately after birth and placed with approved relatives or foster parents. Immediate plans were made to terminate parental rights on such newborn infants and place them for adoption.
• Social workers cannot, on their own, remove children from a parent's custody. Petitions for removal must be approved by local prosecutors or district attorneys. If the local prosecutor is uncooperative or unwilling to support the petition, it will never get to the judge. The local juvenile or family court judge must also agree to the removal and issue the pickup and placement order. There are times social workers want to remove children from abusive or neglectful homes and the prosecutor or judge doesn't agree with the action, and so the child remains in the home.
• The article indicates that child protective services is privatized and, in my opinion, this is always a bad idea. The worker needs to be a well-educated, experienced professional with a strong background in child development, child welfare skills and the ability to go court to fight for the child's protection. When Florida looks for the cheapest way to provide children's protective services, I am not surprised that there are so many deaths in the system.
The average person can do something about abused children. Make sure your local judges follow social worker recommendations (as long as there is adequate evidence to support the recommendation). Encourage your lawmakers to have children's protective services be made up of well-educated and experienced state employees. Consider whether you could be a foster or adoptive parent to an abused child or teenager. Sometimes children are not removed because there simply are no good alternatives to the parent's home.
Kathy Sheridan, Holland, Mich.
A story they can tell best | Feb. 5
Students taking action
I would like to congratulate the students on their video confronting fighting at their school. Principal Barry Brown should be commended for allowing this worthwhile project to be completed in that it exposed an ugly wart for his school.
The bigger picture is that this has exposed the myriad discipline issues that are inherent in all middle schools.
Peter Serbanos, Clearwater
Biden promotes college costs plan | Feb. 7
Not that expensive
I'm not sure which "high costs" of a college education Vice President Joe Biden was complaining about when he spoke at Florida State University. Was he complaining about the $5,235 annual in-state tuition at FSU, or was he complaining about the $38,415 annual tuition that he and President Barrack Obama would have to pay to send their children to Harvard University?
K. Roth, Sun City Center
School prayer bill reeks of pandering Feb. 7, John Romano column
Religion has a place
John Romano's column relies on many questionable assertions, with the overarching theme that religion belongs in our homes and churches, not in the public square.
Romano's arguments and objections defy long-standing, valued traditions in this country that promote and protect free speech, including religious speech in public.
Romano states three primary objections to a Senate bill authorizing school districts to allow students to pray at school functions: that the bill is motivated by pandering, that students of different religious backgrounds would not be interested, and that this bill would constitute an "end run" around court decisions prohibiting teachers and school officials from organizing or promoting prayer.
To the first charge I respond that nearly every new law passed by legislatures is motivated by the interests of one or more groups of citizens who feel current laws are inadequate. This bill is no different.
To the second objection I respond that protection of free speech extends even to speech that is contrary to the listeners' own beliefs, notably including courses and lessons taught on school campuses that are objectionable to some Christians.
Finally, to the last argument, there is a significant distinction between prayer offered by students in comparison to one by teachers or school officials. Teachers and school officials stand in the place of the state, and are therefore rightfully prohibited from promoting any particular religion on campus. Students, on the other hand, are and should continue to be explicitly encouraged to learn, discuss, and promote a variety of viewpoints.
Ed Cronyn, Tampa
Former mayor left mark on St. Petersburg Feb. 7
I appreciated the excellent epilogue of Randy Wedding's life, but missing was his firm's many years of providing architectural services to numerous nonprofits in our community at pro bono or discounted rates.
At Boley Centers, Wedding was involved in the development of rehabilitation projects that provide housing to 450 citizens of Pinellas County who are disabled, homeless or low-income. He was and always will be a "community hero" to Boley Centers.
My favorite quote of Wedding's was: "If affordable housing was easy, everyone would be doing it." It isn't easy, and it wasn't the most profitable of ventures for his firm, but he did it because he cared for this community and had great compassion for others.
We at Boley will miss him greatly.
Gary MacMath, St. Petersburg
Interests of city at heart
I had the privilege of serving on the city's Pier Advisory Task Force, which Randy Wedding chaired. While my acquaintance with him only dates from that time, I thought he was an excellent chair, very fair, and truly had the best interests of the city at heart.
I am sure we will all miss his wise counsel as the new pier project moves forward.
He did indeed "leave his mark" on our city both in terms of his civic contributions and his award-winning architecture, both traditional and contemporary.
Will Michaels, St. Petersburg
Rubio leads health care fight | Feb. 6
Church vs. state
Marco Rubio and the Catholic Church would do well to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:21: "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
By covering contraceptives in their health care plans that provide coverage to a diverse workforce of employees who are not required to be Catholics, the church is simply following the law of the United States. The fact that Catholic employees may wish to exercise their God-given free will and use this coverage is a separate issue altogether — and one that the church is free to address with its parishioners.
Carolyn Klema, New Port Richey
Leftovers feed a need | Feb. 5
Help for the needy
Hats off to Tim Juul for his amazing idea on what to do with leftover packaged food and his hard work to implement it.
Here is another idea that could boost vendor sales and increase the food supplied to the needy: Why not find a way for patrons purchasing food from airport vendors to be able to buy an extra item to be donated to the food recycling program? Everybody gains — more sales, more food for the needy, and a sense of contributing to a good cause for the donor.
Bob Giroux, Largo
Education needs reform — not recklessness Feb. 6, Ernest Hooper column
Listen to the teachers
Ernest Hooper's comments about the state of public education in Florida hit the nail on the head.
I am a retired educator, but I am still interested in our students and their education. Our governor and legislators are clueless about what happens in our schools and what needs to be done to improve our educational system. They need to spend time in our classes and listen, really listen, to our teachers about problems and possible solutions.
Our system is being destroyed by our representatives in Tallahassee who profess to know what is going on and what is best for our students but, unfortunately, are mostly in the dark.
Marilyn Warner, Clearwater