1. Archive

Get the funds to investigate child abuse

The screams continue onthe investigations go onwhile the death count rises and children continue to be brought into the emergency rooms. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that there aren't enough caseworkers to handle the number of complaints reported. What is needed immediately is more money to hire more caseworkers to properly investigate and follow up on the complaints.

The current policies and procedures of the Florida Department of Children and Families are also obviously inadequate. The current policy to return a child who has suffered neglect or abuse to the parent(s) after a few parenting classes in order to preserve the family unit is, in my opinion, extremely risky. The decision to return a child to that environment should be done only after very intense investigation, and that decision should always have the defenseless child's welfare as the priority.

Also, punishment for any person committing or allowing abuse to occur should have a more severe punishment. Did you know that Statute 827.04 states that one who "causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement" to a child can be found guilty of only a felony of the third degree? The punishment for such crimes is not to exceed five years. I wonder how many who are found guilty actually receive and complete that sentence. Remember, these are children who have suffered permanent physical injuries. One can only wonder about the lifelong emotional pain these victims suffer.

It is essential to increase the funding to provide the services needed to ensure the safety of these children. Pressure must be put on those who make and uphold our laws to strengthen the severity of punishment for these offenders. Contact your state representatives and senators, the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Seniors, and the Criminal Justice Committee in Tallahassee. Talk to your judges and anyone else who should be, or is, concerned. You can help stop the screams and pain and maybe even save a life.

Joyce Farley, Clearwater

Blame lies with parents, not society

Social responsibility, the latest oxymoron of the '90s, has again been pointed out in your smugly self-proclaimed hallowed pages on Oct. 31. Consider the blame placed in the following: Section A, Workers in boy's death punished; and Section B,: Woman cleared in attempt to kill fetus.

Oh, yes _ society is at fault in both cases. We have failed for not providing the proper supervision for the social services needed to prevent one mother from her own irresponsible behavior in parenting and her woeful choice of "companion" (I truly cannot find a suitable word for this type of human), and now see fit to expunge her guilt by blaming the understaffed, underpaid, personally and professionally abused persons now deemed responsible for her actions. Where does her blame lie? Jonathan Flam's mother is not mentioned until Page 8, paragraph 20!

And our pistol-wielding mother-to-be is granted absolution by the Supreme Court (and, therefore, us) because no critique may be made by suggesting the ultimate responsibility for an unwanted child starts with non-conception, perhaps even responsible sexual behavior. No, that is too radical a thought!

But somehow, there are dead babies. And the mothers are found blameless. Let's get real.

And Rosa Ashley's prayers might better be offered for the innocents of our self-deluding world.

Jim Morrison, Brooksville

Where is the child's father?

Another child dies!

Two-year-old Jonathan Flam dies from a beating. The mother's boyfriend, 28-year-old Jose Antonio Cortez, is arrested and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

Who and where is Jonathan's father?

Robert A. Zeller, Redington Shores

Six deaths is enough

Re: A story we no longer can bear to read, by Mary Jo Melone, Oct. 30.

What is going on? Six children in two months die at the hands of the mother's boyfriend. I am outraged and sickened by the fact that the Department of Children and Families has been involved in each case and each case has ended in death. Are six deaths enough for this department to change its tactics and policies? When are we as a nation going to stand up and demand that more stringent measures be taken against reports of child abuse? Whether it be the mother, father, boyfriend, relative or babysitter, when are we going to protect our children?

I am not a mother, but I am helping my 18-year-old boyfriend raise his 13-month-old daughter. Since the little girl was 3 months old, I have been the mother figure in her life. Being only 20 years old myself, I can understand how hard and stressful it can be at times, especially when the child is not your own. However, I do not understand how anyone can inflict any harm on a child who barely understands what "no" means.

I can tell you that every time I read a story like little Jonathan Flam's (which, sadly, has become all too frequent), I pick up that little girl (whom I practically consider to be my own), hold her close and shed a tear for those little children who had so much promise and life stolen away from them.

Robin D. Fowler, St. Petersburg

We must protect the children

We need to take immediate action against any and all individuals who are found guilty of child abuse. I am ashamed of the entire human race for the way we treat our future generations. I am overwhelmed by the number of mentally disturbed "people" treating their children as if they are dispensable. It sickens me to know that people are getting away with killing innocent babies who never stood a chance of defending themselves against the evil grip of those who are supposed to love and protect them.

Unfortunately, our government is sending out the same message over and over again: "Abuse is accepted here." I do not understand how we can let this continue.

We need to start fixing the problem before it begins. Instead of crying at funerals of children who didn't have to die, we need to start protecting our children before they are killed. Please help make a difference that will improve the lives of many children and, hopefully, stop some of them from being killed.

I propose harsh punishment, psychiatric counseling and parenting classes (at the very least) for first-time offenders. Let's prevent a second offense. Let's take care of our children. Let's show our children that we haven't forgotten about them.

Teddi G. Sitts, St. Petersburg

Mental health care is complex

Re: Kris Hundley's Oct. 12 article Columbia's diagnosis questioned.

The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health (Miller and Keane, 1987, Fourth Edition, p. 1,031, Phila: Saunders) defined psychosis as "any major mental disorder of organic or emotional origin, marked by derangement of the personality and loss of contact with reality, often with delusions, hallucinations, or illusions." Depressive psychosis (p. 1,032) is defined as "one characterized by mental depression, melancholy, despondency, inadequacy, and feelings of guilt." These definitions establish a framework for diagnostic coding that the Health Care Financial Administration uses in the billing process based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

What do you know about Columbia Home Care patients, their symptoms, their histories, how they live and what their home situations are like? Do you know the sadness and loneliness someone feels when a spouse dies or when one had a major life-changing illness which leaves him or her dependent? Do you know what it feels like to be faced with the choice of giving up your home and everything you worked for? Do you know that some people wish they were dead, will not tell their doctor, but will tell their nurse? Do you know that not all patients can afford to go to an assisted living facility and that there are certain requirements to obtain assistance from some community resources? Do you know how long it takes for the guardianship process to take effect for those who need it or what happens when patients refuse help from HRS?

Are you aware that Columbia has two psychiatric medical consultants available for consultation as well as mental health nurses certified by the American Nurses Association and credentialed by Medicare who assess the whole person for their mental, physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs? Are you aware that mental health is the only specialty from which Medicare requires proof of competency prior to the patient being seen by a home care nurse? Do you know how many hours our nurses spend in effective communication and documentation to meet Medicare and Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Organizations (JCAHO) guidelines? Have you considered the good care our patients receive or how hard all our staff works to give good care _ nurses, aides, social workers, clerical and management? Are you aware of the orientation, training and educational in-services required?

Answers to all of the above questions have an impact on coding the patient's condition. This is a good time to educate the community on mental health and the services offered.

Marie Pat Weissinger, RNC, BSN, Petersburg

Sound journalism is on the money

Kudos to Helen Huntley, Times staff writer, for her Nov. 2 article Buy? Sell? Maybe it's time to plan. It was a balanced, perceptive, sensible and rational overview for investors.

Sound journalism is not dead after all!

Roger N. Goodling, Lutheran Brotherhood, New Port Richey

These heels weren't made for walking

Re: The enduring appeal of heels, letter, Oct. 30.

After reading the writer's comments, I could not help but think he has never worn heels. Although I agree that high heels are very attractive, they also cause numerous problems such as bunions and lower back problems. Women should be able to work and play comfortably and still look stylish without sacrificing health.

Women do personify intellectuality, sophistication and femininity without maiming themselves for the sake of style. I know a great many women who are all of the above and refuse to wear heels anymore, including myself.

Astute women shun uncomfortable shoes. By so doing, they also think more clearly since their mind is not cluttered with thoughts of how badly their feet are hurting.

As for the writer's self-appointed "self-styled" expert status, I'm not sure about that, but I do believe his message conveys a guy with a definite shoe fetish.

Cindy Briggs, Clearwater

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