Deaths of 8 kids put agency in jeopardy | Oct. 9
Work to end cycle of abuse
Life is precious. Children are precious. And when the life of a child is lost to senseless and evil violence, it jars our equilibrium. It also spurs action, however brief, sporadic or overdue it may sometimes seem.
Hillsborough Kids Inc. now finds itself in the place that every child welfare agency in America knows it could soon inhabit. Child deaths are so random and unpredictable that agencies routinely run risk assessments and face skyrocketing liability insurance costs that threaten their very existence. A difficult economy and high rates of domestic violence appear to trigger higher child deaths as agencies struggle with more referrals, reduced budgets and high staff turnover.
We agree with Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins' goals of revamping the state's child abuse hotline and upping expectations and salaries of DCF case investigators. At the same time, it must be recognized that case managers, who are employees of community agencies, are also on the front line of the battle to protect children. Following DCF's initial risk assessments, these case managers — widely known to be woefully underpaid and greatly overworked — assume 24/7 responsibility for dire family situations for months on end.
Emerging from a childhood that inflicted abuse upon my siblings and me, I have devoted my life to finding ways to end the generational cycle of child abuse. Like many others in our field, I see opportunities for child protection services to become increasingly effective.
Chief among needed changes is an increase in face-to-face time with children and their families. According to a recent study by the Florida Coalition for Children, case managers spend in excess of 22 hours per week on documentation and administration required to comply with statute or contract. More than 17 hours are spent in court, in multiagency meetings and driving to and from their required activities. Alarmingly, this totals 39 hours of work without the time spent visiting with approximately 20 children for whose lives they are responsible.
Florida has built a community-based child welfare network that receives national acclaim. But the randomness and unpredictability of child deaths means we must be ever vigilant in finding solutions that will increasingly protect children. And our fixes must be embraced by all partners, not placed at the feet of a few.
David A. Bundy, president and CEO, Children's Home Society of Florida, Winter Park
A recent letter called for a conservative "values restoration" to our economic fabric.
How ironic that the same day's newspaper reports that in the worst recession since the Great Depression, the number of people making more than $1 million in salary soared by more than 18 percent since 2009. Meanwhile, half of U.S. workers earn less than $26,364, 5.2 million jobs have been lost since 2007, and 14 million are unemployed.
"Values restoration" is indeed needed. But this has nothing to do with individual savings rates, entitlement cuts, delayed gratification or decreasing government regulation.
In an America where the rich are getting richer and the middle class getting poorer, "values restoration" needs to come to politicians who continue to tout the "big lie" that tax cuts for rich people and corporations lead to job creation. We have had a decade of that, and where are the jobs?
Values restoration must mean true representation and a good-faith attempt to move forward to restore the basic American values of honesty and fairness.
K.A. Knop, St. Pete Beach
Internet sales tax
Good for the state
I almost never agree with the Chamber of Commerce, but its proposal to apply state sales tax to Internet purchases is a great idea — it closes the budget gap, helps Main Street merchants and creates 50,000 jobs.
The Florida Chamber estimates that enforcing the sales tax on Internet sales could raise $1.5 billion, about three quarters of next year's estimated shortfall in the state budget. That translates to increased local sales of around $21 billion, and at $400,000 in sales for each new store job, that's 50,000 new jobs. The only barriers are the Legislature, where Republicans hate taxes, and the governor, who wants to eliminate his own government. Internet sales taxes, good for everyone except Grover Norquist, deserve more than knee-jerk rejection.
James Shirk, Tampa
Focus on how Gadhafi died Oct. 22
Rejoice and move on
Why the concern over how Moammar Gadhafi died? Obviously, he was shot by the Libyan rebels, and we'll probably never know how or whom. Why do we care? Gadhafi was a bloody-handed dictator, responsible for the murder of thousands of his countrymen, plus several hundred other people over Lockerbie, Scotland.
He deserved to die, and if one of his own people — a rebel — shot him "out of hand," execution-style, good for him. An evil man is dead, freeing his people to hopefully build a free, democratic society. Why investigate? Join the rest of the world and rejoice.
John B. Kelley, Safety Harbor
Libya declared a liberated state Oct. 24
It jars my sense of reality when I see pictures of "liberated" women clad in their burkas cheering their newfound freedom. Don't these women realize that until they can dress as they please, not as they are forced to do, that they are not free? They live in a cage of fabric.
They remind me of the story of the circus elephant who was chained to a post for so many years that even when the chains were removed, he stayed in the same spot. If it is religious to be so extremely modest, why is it limited only to women and enforced only by men?
Mary Bernard, Oldsmar
Occupy Wall Street
I'm so sick of the "holier than thou" attitude of the critics of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I'm 61, have had a pretty good job for the past 36 years, have a great pension and health care for life, and what happens to others probably won't affect me at all.
But I see friends who have been laid off at 50-plus years of age who frankly have little chance of employment in this competitive world, and then hear Herman Cain bluster that if they're unemployed it's their own fault. All I can say is, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
Jackie Gavrian, Brandon