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  1. Opinion

What foster kids in Hillsborough really need

Here’s what readers had to say in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
An architect's rendering of a foster care village proposed for Lake Magdalene. [Ross Chapin Architects]
An architect's rendering of a foster care village proposed for Lake Magdalene. [Ross Chapin Architects]
Published Nov. 15

Foster teens need a family

Hillsborough plans foster care village | Nov. 11

How lovely that foster teens in Hillsborough County will have a renovated facility in which to live, one that is more “homey.” But the goal of foster care is to place children in normalized family settings with foster parents who can meet their needs. The field has moved toward limiting the use of group facilities because they tend not to meet the developmental needs of teens. Individual privacy is limited, often even in bathrooms. This is not a normal way to live for most teens living in families.

Within the past 10 years, much has been learned about adolescent development. We now understand that the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which controls our executive functioning skills, develops during adolescence and into early adulthood. This includes our skills in reasoning, planning, decision-making, problem-solving and helping us think before we act — controlling our impulses.

Hillsborough has had trouble finding placements for teens with emotional or behavioral issues. Many of the issues these teens have are normal risk-taking behaviors associated with developing adolescents, but their trauma histories have exacerbated and exaggerated these behaviors. Rather than subject foster teens to more rigidity in rules, making them angrier and more rebellious, and housing them with teens more like them than not, feeding off each other’s anger and poor decisions, Hillsborough should spend its money trying to work with them individually, working to identify reasonable living accommodations with relatives, friends, even family. Try to wrap services around their chosen families, flawed as they may be, rather than create nicer group facilities. I’m afraid that five years from now, you’ll be having the same conversation: what to do with runaway teens who don’t like living at the aging Lake Magdalene group facility.

Soon enough, they will be out of the system, many without the skills needed to become successful adults, nor an adult who cares enough to help them, in part because we continued to treat them like naughty children, isolated on a campus.

Tracey Field, Baltimore

The writer, now retired, was director of the Child Welfare Strategy Group of the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore.

Ferries will work

Ferry is scenic, not a solution | Editorial, Nov. 7

The Cross Bay Ferry cruises along the Vinoy Yacht Basin after departing downtown St. Petersburg and headed across Tampa Bay to downtown Tampa.

The Times editorial criticizing ferry service for Tampa Bay is sad and incomprehensible.

We are one of the few major metropolitan areas in America situated on a major bay that doesn’t use its free waterways for congestion-proof water transportation. Our residents get it, though. Last weekend, all 14 ferry trips between St. Petersburg to Tampa service were sold out.

Ed Turanchik

Permanent ferry service would not cost taxpayers $14 per passenger to operate, the cost cited by the Times for the current seasonal service. In fact, this cost would be precisely zero. This is because HMS Ferries has committed to running permanent Cross-Bay Ferry service without any local taxpayer operating subsidies. It is a $100 million commitment! Ours would be the only local transit service in Florida that didn’t need an operating subsidy.

Permanent service would include weeknight and weekend service, 365 days a year, between Tampa, St. Petersburg and a new terminal in the Big Bend area in South Hillsborough County. Weekday commuter service would run between South County and MacDill Air Force Base, providing 8,000 military families a better commute option while taking millions of miles of car travel off our congested roadways each year.

The public’s capital investment in permanent service would be small. The cost of four new ferries, docks and terminals — all publicly owned — is less than widening one mile of county roadway, and about 4 percent of the $814 million price tag to rebuild the northbound span of Howard Frankland Bridge.

No transportation option can do so much, for so many, so quickly, for so little, and that can make such a big difference to our future. It’s time to move forward.

Ed Turanchik, Tampa

The writer, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, is an attorney with Akerman LLP who represents HMS Ferries.

Toll roads for evacuations

Toll road plans to get more scrutiny | Nov. 12

SunPass

Studies show that more than 900 people move to Florida every day. This growth presents a constant challenge to public safety as we look for the fastest, safest and most efficient way to evacuate Floridians, as well as tens of thousands of tourists, out of harm’s way when hurricanes are unfortunately bearing down on our coasts.

As we witnessed with Hurricane Irma, Florida’s roadways cannot handle the mass influx of evacuees yet. Numerous Floridians and tourists experienced this firsthand as they attempted to evacuate, while others were made aware of this issue by media reports. The need to improve the state’s hurricane evacuation routes was taken seriously and real progress has been made as the Legislature passed a plan last year.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco

The need for these improvements, called MCOREs, for Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, should not be delayed. There is a high probability, if not certainty, that major hurricanes will continue to hit our state. We need to improve our road system now to stop preventable disasters in the future.

By creating these three new roadways from Collier County to Jefferson County, it will give people in Southwest Florida another option to exit the state and ease the flow of traffic throughout the Bay Area. In Pasco, specifically, it will assist in moving the vulnerable residents from Pinellas when local bridges shut down due to high winds.

We, of course, must find a balance between these and environmental concerns. We must be certain to avoid environmentally sensitive areas, and with today’s technology I am certain we can achieve this necessary balance.

With growth comes the responsibility to ensure that we plan for the future by investing in projects that help keep our residents and tourists safe and out of harm’s way.

Chris Nocco

The writer is the Pasco County sheriff.

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