Letters

State-Sponsored Predators
So the Child Welfare League of America, which is to children what a nursing home association is to the elderly, claims that fewer than 1 percent of foster children are sexually abused ("Fostering Sexual Abuse," Terry Greene Sterling, July 1). How, then, does CWLA explain what happened when alumni of what is said to be an exemplary foster-care program in the Pacific Northwest were asked if they had been molested? Twenty-four percent of the girls said they had been victims of actual or attempted sexual abuse in the one foster home they had been in the most--they were not even asked about the others. And how does CWLA explain the Baltimore study that found the rate of substantiated sexual abuse in foster homes four times higher than the rate in the general population?

Abuse in foster care won't make it into an official case record unless the child has the courage to come forward and the caseworker refuses to look the other way--so when it comes to measuring the extent of such abuse, cases that make the official record should be considered a floor, not a ceiling.

In contrast, real family preservation programs that rigorously follow the model established by the first such program, Homebuilders in Washington State, are not just more humane than foster care, they are safer than foster care. But such programs are smeared when the label "family preservation" is slapped onto any attempt to leave any child in any home under any circumstances. And it's been a very effective smear campaign. Though your article says Arizona is committed to family preservation, the state's foster-care population has soared by 60 percent since 1993. And the more crowded the system becomes, the greater the likelihood for abuse.

Along with the campaign against family preservation has come an effort to stereotype it as, if not a vast right-wing conspiracy, at least a "conservative creed." For the record, our organization was founded by a former member of the national board of the ACLU. Our board members include a former legal director for the Children's Defense Fund, and former Legal Services Corporation attorneys. Most people who support real family preservation don't care if it's liberal or conservative--we just know that for many children it works--and foster care doesn't.

We also know that while reforms such as monthly visits by caseworkers will help, the only real way to reform foster care is to have less of it.

Richard Wexler,
Washington director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

I almost came to tears after reading the horrible ordeal these children suffered in their young lives. How can anyone look into the eyes of an innocent child and strip away their innocence? I feel for both the children who were molested and for the children (molesters) who were obviously exposed to that type of lifestyle themselves. It's a vicious cycle. We see how it corrupts lives and we see how no one seems "to know anything." We need more "guardian angels" in the CPS system to protect them and preserve their right of innocence. Thank you.

Denise Paz
via Internet

I am a Child Protective Services caseworker. I found it very unfortunate that you did not research any of the success stories in CPS (yes, they are out there). It never ceases to amaze me that journalists continue to focus on the negative and write with bias that only breeds ignorance to the people who read the articles. If you want to uncover information that the general public never sees, why don't you write about some of the effective work CPS workers do to advocate for abused and neglected children in state care?

Name withheld by request

I found your article very troubling, mainly because it seems to show a common desire by CPS to protect itself, rather than a real desire to protect the kids who are supposedly entrusted to their care.

It seems the only time most government agencies really look at their own behavior is when we look at it first, otherwise they tend to do a lot of sweeping under the rug. Anyway, thanks for taking the time and effort to investigate. It made me remember the days when 60 Minutes was actually an investigative reporting series and not a movie-star review.

Steven Fitzpatrick
via Internet

Thank you for providing a balanced article about foster care and DES.
I find it interesting that there are lawsuits against case managers and CPS which will ultimately be settled with tax dollars that could be used to adequately fund CPS and foster care and possibly prevent some of these atrocities. Why not prosecute the foster parents, who are responsible for the care of children placed in their homes? Or even the biological parents whose failure to provide an adequate home resulted in an out-of-home placement?

I seriously doubt that a monthly visit, as opposed to an every other month or every three month visit, is going to uncover abuse within the home. Case managers do not conduct medical exams or even investigations during routine home visits. Children are more likely to disclose abuse to a teacher, counselor or other adult who sees that child on a daily or weekly basis.

If there is anyone to blame for the marginal care children in foster care receive, I think it would be more appropriate to point fingers at legislators who routinely deny CPS requests for adequate staff/case ratios. Foster care will continue to be marginal because of severe underfunding for one simple reason: Children do not vote.

Pam Frye
Phoenix

Terry Greene Sterling paints with an awfully broad brush when she states "shelters are the last option--they are overcrowded, traumatic for children and sometimes harbor dangerous teenagers who might prey on younger kids."

It that sentence had begun with the word "some," I probably wouldn't be writing this, but the lack of that qualifying word speaks to an across-the-board indictment.

If you check with CPS workers, I am confident that, to a person, they would have told the author that the West Valley Child Crisis Center is anything but overcrowded, with two children per average-size bedroom and an abundance of play areas both indoors and out. While children may arrive traumatized, within a few days of being exposed to the love and nurturing provided by an exceptional (although very much underpaid) staff and group of dedicated volunteers, they are as happy and healthy as any other comparable groups of youngsters the same age. And our oldest child is 8, so the issue of "dangerous teenagers" doesn't exist.

Your article does a terrible disservice to us and countless other well-run operations such as Phoenix Crisis Nursery and the Crisis Center of the East Valley. We all rely on public support in order to survive, and the way you portray us, you decrease our ability to raise critically needed funds. The result will be that we would have to cut services and thus be unable to offer all the programs our kids really need. Your irresponsibility in this regard is disturbing.

How about having one of your reporters come and visit us and tell the other side of the story? Of course, that wouldn't be nearly as "provocative," so the likelihood of that truth seeing the light of day appears somewhere between slim and none.

Philip Barnett, executive director
West Valley Child Crisis Center
Glendale

I was moved after reading "Fostering Sexual Abuse." I truly cannot believe the things that I was reading! All those careless individuals letting these things happen to those poor, innocent children! I was somewhat glad to hear one happy ending: the story about Jason and his present happy life with uncle Mike. Yet the emotional scars are still there!

I really hope things are improving. This made me so angry, I felt like paying the "predators" a little visit to teach them a lesson. But who am I? What could I possibly do? I'm just a 20-year-old student struggling with a minimum-wage part-time job, trying to get through school.

Oh, how I wish something could have been done to save those kids. I'm not from Arizona originally, and after reading this article, I'm glad I'm not. I would be ashamed to have originated from here.

Pascual Ygleicas III
via Internet

Commie-Baiting
Rampant tax giveaways, decade after decade, sponsored by the business elite, enacted and enforced by the government, paid for from the public pocket, and supplied interest-free to the same big business elite are bad enough.

For New Times and the Flash to call this "corporate socialism" is way off the mark (Flashes, July 1). This connotation is a slur on socialism and is based on simple prejudice. Fifty years of propaganda can't be wrong, can it?

The largest single institution of any kind in the United States, larger than any other division of government, private business, religion or any capital pool, is social security, and virtually everyone uses it. It benefits many, many people. This is the underpinning of social stability in the United States and much of the rest of the developed world. Since 1936, this great nation has been a socialist nation. The entire 20th century is littered with broken societies and toppled governments that did not take care of the basic social needs of their people. The U.S. did not follow this path.

What you are deriding needs criticism. I commend New Times for great work over the years. But by resurrecting old, discredited commie-baiting tactics, you discredit yourselves. How many times did you repeat the McCarthyite phrases? Propagandist, heal thyself. The United States is great because it attempts to guarantee freedom of conscience. Remember?

Call what you criticize what it is. What you're talking about is a wealthy, corrupt elite lining their own pockets. Corruption at every level pervades our society. Children are taught the warped values of their parents, who themselves are maddened by greed and disappointment. And we all must pay to pray in the Central Cathedral(s) of the State Religion, which is Sport, where all our society's schizoid delusions can be played out without too many people getting hurt.

What you are talking about is a corrupt elite subverting the democratic process. Real socialism (read: social security) exists completely in harmony with what has passed for democracy in this country. Corruption should be opposed, and effective socialism should be supported. Real democracy should be the goal we aspire to. Commie-baiting should be avoided as the low trade that it is.

Please consider this. Is this really the drumbeat you want to start?
Please choose some other inflammatory label for Jerry Colangelo and the rest of them. And have at it. Bravo!

And also please do not print my name, as I don't want to end up burned at the stake for my political conscience, backward outback that this crazy, wonderful state is.

Name withheld by request

Pregnant Pause
Wow! Thank you for writing the article about Dr. Brian Finkel ("The Terminator," Amy Silverman, June 17). What a sad sicko. By quoting him so extensively, it allows the reader to form an opinion about him without filter from you.

I'm proud to be pro-life and say the rosary outside an abortion mill with others most Saturday mornings. I think most do it for the same reason I do. I believe in the power of prayer, and I think abortion is as big a wrong as slavery was. The only thing we are armed with is our rosary beads. I think this is the case with most pro-life groups. There has been so little violence outside abortion mills in the years since Roe that it always amazes me how much media attention is given to it while very little is given to the violence that goes on inside them. Really, across America, how many instances can be documented in all those years?

A few things I found most informative in your article:
* Mrs. Abortionist's need to decorate the mill so it won't look like what it is.

* Finkel's claim that he does "good" with no competition, shortly after he describes himself as "articulate."

* Mrs. Abortionist's attempt to make herself sound more educated by describing herself as a "psych major."

They both sound very sad. Why would they care about the babies they are aborting when they aborted their own? I guess the compelling reason for doing that to their own child was an inconvenience, since you gave no other in the article.

Truly pro-life people have never been involved in any violence at abortion mills. Don't you get it? That would be against everything they stand for. I believe the abortionist killed in New York last year had other enemies more likely to have killed him, but, of course, you won't hear anything about that from major media sources. Your article was fascinating.

Rose Kehoe
via Internet

Your article on Brian Finkel was just the motivator I needed to join the "pro-life zealots" in protesting his abortion clinic. Thank you for the wake-up call! Still, I don't know how you can waste a dot of ink on this vulgar person. Worse yet, I don't know how any woman could lower her dignity to visit such a psycho.

Vickie Jahaske
via Internet

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