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A for-profit can be for the children, too

Your recently published editorial Little gold mines (Jan. 14) flatly states that any for-profit company participating in Florida's child welfare privatization is beholden only to its shareholders, not to Florida's children. That conclusion in regard to Providence Service Corp. is unfair and unsubstantiated.

Providence Service Corp. is a nationally recognized provider of child welfare services and has been lauded for its innovations in community-based treatment. We are career child welfare executives operating in 17 states with 99 locations, all managed by empowered local staff. We have nearly 200 contracts, have never lost a contract or had one terminated, and are widely known throughout the country as a quality, fairly priced, family-focused provider. There is no organization in the United States more committed to making lasting changes for children and families.

It is important for your readers to know that Providence Service Corp. was invited into your area to help turn around a very difficult situation because of our reputation for excellence. In particular, we provide management services to the lead child welfare agency in southwest Florida and recently received praise from the state of Florida regarding our work and preparedness for privatization.

While we understand there may be a bias against for-profit organizations involved in social services, Providence Service Corp. only operates where it is invited. The corporation does not advocate legislative change nor seek political favors. Instead, we let our track record, reasonable fees and productive outcomes speak for the company. We have been instrumental in shoring up not-for-profit providers by bringing experienced, focused child advocates together with modern business practices, state-of-the-art information systems and real-time data.

Most of these not-for-profit agencies have relied on dated and inaccurate data when trying to assess the economics of their operation and the organization's solvency. It takes dedicated, local staff aligned with the state and a high degree of communication and real-time information sharing to succeed. Providence Service Corp. has a long history of bridging the gap between the public, not-for-profit and for-profit business sectors. We bring much needed capital, expertise, systems and experience not readily available to most not-for-profit organizations.

We realize that our company would not thrive if its sole focus was profit. We would not enjoy 15 not-for-profit partners without embracing their mission and operating within fair economics. Simply put, we believe that our 36 years of knowledge and experience in the child welfare sector, combined with capital and systems resources, can assist any state, county or not-for-profit provider in materially improving their service delivery.

Fletcher McCusker, CEO, Providence Service Corp., Tucson, Ariz.

The benefits of private giving

Re: $1.5-billion gift awes Salvation Army, Jan. 21.

Joan Kroc's gift to the Salvation Army is not only a commendable and extraordinary example of personal stewardship, it is also an eloquent demonstration of what can be done _ and is being done _ through faith-based initiatives by individuals and corporations throughout the land and throughout the world. It is indeed hard to find the right superlative to describe it, as the Army's commissioner found when he struggled gamely to say a word of appreciation.

It is also hard to find words to describe the enormous good done through the American system of voluntary giving on the part of individuals and through public and religious organizations. These initiatives originated through the constitutional provision of the separation of church and state, a principle under which we in this country have operated with great benefit for more than 200 years. And while we applaud the example Mrs. Kroc has set for us, we should remember also to give thanks for the joy and freedom of spirit her benevolence, and that of her late husband, gave to them. It is a gift the humblest giver can experience.

Organizations and institutions like the Salvation Army do not need to receive government funds to carry out their work (the Army derives 12 percent of its budget from the public purse). Mrs. Kroc's example reminds us of how much good we can all do to help our neighbors in need, whether our gifts be small or great. And she shows us one outstanding way we can do it.

By the way, what a noble service a president of the United States could render if, instead of giving public money from sorely strained government budgets to "faith-based initiatives" he would commend the extraordinary good works done daily by ordinary people who "look not to their own interests but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4). Who knows what new ventures such a word would initiate?

The Rev. Albert N. Wells, president, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Tampa/Hillsborough County Chapter, Tampa

A Christian and a Democrat

I find it odd that the media portray Howard Dean's reference to his religious life as politically contrived. It is as if the media see religion as a monopoly of the GOP. The fact that a major political party in both Europe and Latin America is called Christian Democrat does not seem strange to me.

I vote Democratic precisely because I consider myself to be an Evangelical Christian. I vote for those who follow Christ's admonition to feed the hungry through well-funded food stamp and school lunch programs. I vote for those who would comfort the sick through a universal health insurance system.

I vote for those who would visit the imprisoned by adequately funding correctional institutions, transitional and halfway programs and alternatives to incarceration.

I vote for those who would adequately fund our welfare safety net to clothe the naked. I vote for those who would adequately fund our federal HUD programs to shelter the homeless.

I also vote for peacemakers, rather than vote for people who seek excuses to wage war on those who have not harmed us, but who might do so at some future time.

I consider myself to be a Democrat because I am a Christian. As a Christian, I cannot support the domestic nor foreign policies of the current Republican administration.

John Bassett, Inverness

Some real hypocrisy

Howard Dean called President Bush hypocritical because he placed a wreath on Martin Luther King Jr.'s tombstone at the very time he gave an interim appointment to Judge Charles Pickering to the federal appeals court. Dean falsely claimed that Judge Pickering was a racist. Without the Democratic filibuster, Judge Pickering would have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Now for real hypocrisy. Dean flew to Georgia to be photographed going to church with former President Jimmy Carter. When was the last time Dean went to church?

Arnold J. Ryden, St. Petersburg

Religion doesn't equal moral goodness

Re: It's no sin to have morality in politics, Jan. 22.

It is no sin to have morality in politics. It is a coincidence. Nothing in the history of mankind indicates a direct relationship between religion, or other superstition, and morality. One's mores and ethics, good or bad, are embedded in personality regardless of one's fancies. An honest, declared atheist could never be elected to anything as long as religion is falsely equated with moral goodness.

Bud Tritschler, Clearwater

Profanity isn't a matter of free speech

R: FCC head wants potty mouths to pay up, Jan. 15 and Rein in the FCC, letter, Jan. 21.

In response to the article regarding questionable language on the air, the letter writer asks, "what happened to freedom of speech?" The answer is that nothing has happened in this regard. His letter is a prime example of his freedom of speech. He had no fear of reprisal for criticism of a governmental agency and its policies.

Every broadcast station is licensed by the federal government to be a public trustee and serve the communities in which they broadcast. Each station must periodically renew the license, documenting its efforts to serve the public. Everything is subject to regulation. This includes everything from hiring practices to technical specifications of broadcast equipment. The FCC is the governmental agency that oversees radio and television. There are volumes of books containing rules and regulations that broadcasters must follow or run the risk of sanctions.

Is freedom of speech simply the right to be able to use profanity on the airwaves? This is not what the Founding Fathers may have had in mind. A Hussein-era Iraqi or a Hitler-era German could tell firsthand stories about the true consequences of expressing his point of view. Using profanity simply for shock value on the radio has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has everything to do with laws, regulations and rules that are in effect.

Frank Ferreri, New Port Richey

Filth and freedom

Our Founding Fathers felt strongly about the freedom to think their own thoughts and to express those thoughts to others. Not too long ago, just the act of not agreeing with the government or church officials could result in severe punishment, and outspoken people faced death. Thus the founders added to the Constitution the First Amendment, which includes freedom of speech. Today, many people hide behind the First Amendment when they want to use profanity to insult and harass others. They are free to say, write, print or listen to such filth and share it with other willing participants. That is protected. What is not protected is the forcing of such obscenities on others by broadcasting profanity over the publicly owned airwaves or disguised as publicly financed art.

I don't believe the intent of the First Amendment was to force profanity into the ears of the general public. Of course, those of us who do not enjoy the filth have been exposed to it, but we should not be forced to endure a constant flow of obscenity from obnoxious and uncivilized individuals, especially in public forums.

If you want to share your obscene thoughts with others willing to listen, you are protected and free to do so. Just don't force me to listen to your fowl language either in person or over the radio or TV. I want to respect your rights and hope that you can respect my rights also. Please be polite.

Mike Anderson, Wesley Chapel

Language not fit for children

In the Jan. 22 paper there was a word used in The Boondocks comic strip that is one step closer to using the filthy word which this promotes. Let's avoid having our children reading this stuff and get back to a decent vocabulary.

Arthur Medeiros, St. Pete Beach

Try comic separation

After viewing the comics for some time now, I felt obligated to let you know what I thought of your new additives. I am considered elderly and liked the old comics. I don't understand the new ones as I see no humor in them.

May I suggest that to please all sides you make a separation and have the old ones in one portion of your comic section and the new ones in another portion of the comic section. That should make everyone quite happy.

Linwood W. Oberg, Trinity

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