Protecting Florida's children | July 5, editorial
Law requires followup, funding
With regard to recent reports about the 477 children who died who were known by the Department of Children and Families to potentially be at risk, the cases all involved the DCF's knowledge from prior investigations of children who would be in danger of future serious harm or death if left with their families.
In no system should children die at the expense of keeping families together. This is why the Florida Legislature's new enactment, SB 1666, placed child safety as paramount. However, this law does not change the federal mandate under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, which requires the state to use reasonable efforts to preserve families when possible.
We agree that the recently passed Florida law increases the quality of the investigative process. But it also ensures that our agencies will be responsible for safety plans beyond the 60-day investigative period when there is future or imminent risk. The law allows an extended period — as long as necessary — to monitor families to enable better risk assessment decisions about whether families can be preserved.
What the Florida Legislature recognized and what remains to be seen is whether there is sufficient funding for family preservation services — including substance abuse treatment, intensive case management and mental health services — for the child protection system to work.
Thus, it's critical that the Legislature monitor the implementation of this act and, if necessary, make adjustments and increase appropriations to ensure that these legislative goals are accomplished.
Howard Talenfeld, president, Florida's Children First, Fort Lauderdale
Supreme Court justices in battle, armed with words | July 3, commentary
Hypocrisy on the bench
Supreme hypocrisy as displayed by the court of the same name was well reviewed by this column. Justice Antonin Scalia is quoted as claiming abortion-rights advocates are abusing the First Amendment rights of protesters by requiring a 35-foot protest quiet zone around clinic entrances. But he is quiet about the 250-foot zone protecting the Supreme Court justices from those protesting their decisions. I agree with protecting the justices, but it is hypocrisy to deny similar protection to clinics providing legal procedures to citizens.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is quoted questioning the logic of allowing the (religious) opinion of Hobby Lobby owners to evade the law providing reproductive care to women. The law does not require Hobby Lobby owners to avail themselves of that care — so they are safe in their religious beliefs. But they have no right to impose that belief on others. Jesus agreed when he said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." This decision creates a new right to impose your religious opinion on other people.
Bernard Waryas, Dunedin
Most immigrant kids will go back | July 8
Mexico should do more
While I understand the concerns that many have expressed for the welfare of these young people and the conditions they endure in our holding facilities in the Southwest, it would seem obvious that our country cannot allow this seemingly endless stream of migrants to continue indefinitely. What if we were to load these youngsters onto trains and buses and take them north to the U.S.-Canada border? Clearly, it is unimaginable that we would do such a thing. But then, why is it that Mexican authorities allow these individuals free transit through their country to our border? Is their undocumented entry into Mexico not just as illegal under Mexican law as their entry into the United States is illegal under ours?
In short, why do Mexican authorities whose border crossing with Guatemala is an effective choke point continue to cast a blind eye on this situation? And why don't our own authorities demand that our good neighbor and North American Free Trade Agreement partner, Mexico, put a stop to this flow at their own southern border?
Fred Kalhammer, Sun City Center
Study links Medicaid, jobs | July 3
Claims lack credibility
This discussion of the White House's job-creation argument in favor of Medicaid expansion failed to address a key issue: credibility. The fact is, the White House relies on a report from the Council of Economic Advisers, a federal agency. Rather than take the White House at its word, perhaps we should consider the recent behavior of some other federal agencies.
In March 2013, James Clapper knowingly lied to Congress — under oath — about the extent of NSA surveillance. He kept his job as director of national intelligence. Lois Lerner, former director of tax-exempt organizations at the IRS, has "taken the Fifth" and repeatedly refused to testify regarding her involvement in the targeting of conservative organizations. The Justice Department, a federal agency, shows no interest in an investigation despite the IRS's pathetic excuse for the destruction of Lerner's emails. Last month the EPA, a federal agency, was held in contempt by a district judge for destroying computer files it had been ordered to preserve.
Like so many issues, the health care "debate" suffers because its participants reflexively side with the "left" or "right" instead of asking a more fundamental question: Why concede any control to a federal government whose agencies are so riddled with corruption?
Kyle Lindskog, St. Petersburg
Part-timers mask jobless crisis | July 3
Employers win; workers lose
It does not take a genius to know why so many employers are resorting to hiring only part-time workers. One of the easiest and simplest ways to cut overhead costs is to eliminate as many nonrevenue-producing expenses as possible, and the No. 1 culprit is a health benefit for employees. Part-timers don't qualify for benefits: no vacation time, no sick leave, no matched funds for retirement, and no incentive for the employee to hang around, ergo, no longevity, no company loyalty, just more McJobs for adults who are desperately trying to make a living to support their families.
Some large employers are phasing out full-time employees through attrition, but sadly, many others are resorting to subcontracting portions of their workforce, specifically to get out from under the high costs of benefits.
The American Dream has become a nightmare.
J.D. Batson, Tampa