Child Support

Letters from the week of March 20, 2003

 Sex and the City

Mr. "Plig": John Dougherty's article about polygamy was great ("Bound by Fear," March 13). He should get a Pulitzer for the way he's dug into the dirt in this filthy corner of the planet.

What keeps being missed is that the "pligs" have been allowed to isolate themselves from law enforcement. That is a big part of the problem. What needs to be done is to put governmental agencies, including law enforcement, along with CPS, welfare and other agencies, in Colorado City itself. That way, if a girl is being forced into an illegal sexual union, she has a place to run.

As for Colorado City's Mickey Mouse little plig police force, it should be eliminated. The "policemen" should be de-certified. In addition to that, the city charter should be revoked, since the city is being used as a front for a criminal enterprise.

Jim Ashurst
Henderson, Nevada

No rights make a wrong: It's really quite simple. It's child abuse and it's illegal. And we are supporting this insanity? What's wrong with our politicians and our state?

Marie Hanna
Phoenix

Hair-raising: LOVED the co-winky-dink regarding the timing of the article "Bound By Fear" and the discovery of Elizabeth Smart's "abduction" by Brian David Mitchell. Even more amusing is the media portrayal of Mitchell as a polygamous religious nut job. The only thing that separates Mitchell from the rest of the Mormon community is his facial hair.

Name withheld by request

The Jam Bandwagon

Backspin: Your recent article, Positive Spin" by Christopher O'Conner (March 6), has left me perplexed. Although there is a great deal of truth to Mr. O'Conner's analysis of the music scene (or lack thereof) in Phoenix, he seems to have missed an entire genre that has been growing steadily and cohesively. That genre is the all-too-often overlooked jam band scene.

As a member of one of the many Phoenix jam bands that has sprung up recently, I would encourage you to visit the Sail Inn on occasion. The Sail has recently installed an amazing outdoor stage and regularly plays host to local bands drawing 200 to 300 fans.

You may also want to take a moment to look at Web sites such as www.azheads.com and intelligroove.azheads.com. You may be surprised to find a thriving, if still small, music scene. The musicians in these bands are not isolated from one another; we are constantly in touch, doing side projects with members of other bands, getting together to just jam, and supporting each other at shows.

Again, I encourage you to explore this part of the Phoenix music scene. I'm sure that you will find it to be some of the best live music in the area.

Matt Kwiatkowski
Mesa

Family Ties

The kid stays in the picture: On behalf of those of us on the "family values left," let me suggest that you'd feel "somewhat beleaguered," too, if the publication you hoped might offer an alternative to the Arizona Republic's cheerleading for tearing children from their families instead credited the people who want to take away more children with supporting "child safety" 14 separate times when the approach actually puts children in more danger ("Heaven Help the Child," Amy Silverman, February 27).

What Governor Napolitano and her allies really support is a massive increase in child removal. And their fervor for this approach proves that, in child welfare, nothing succeeds like failure.

Since 1993, Illinois, New York City and Florida all embraced the same "take-the-child-and-run" approach favored by Napolitano. The results were always the same: Workers were so overwhelmed with children who didn't need to be in foster care that they actually had less time to find children in real danger. So deaths of children previously "known to the system" actually increased. Illinois and New York City reversed course; embraced sage, proven programs to keep families together; cut their foster care populations and made children safer. Florida has just announced plans to do the same.

Similarly, the state of Alabama and the county-run system in Pittsburgh/ Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, both slashed their foster care populations and improved child safety in recent years. In Alabama, for example, re-abuse of children left in their own home has been cut in half, and an independent court-appointed monitor says the reforms have improved child safety.

As for ideology: If John Ashcroft proposed an anti-terrorism law that allowed searches of homes and strip searches of the people living in them without warrants, detention for days and sometimes a month or more before those detained even saw the inside of a courtroom, conviction based not on a standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" but only "preponderance of the evidence," and a requirement that all trials and documents be secret, the left would be furious.

But that is the system in place now when it comes to child welfare in Arizona and the rest of the country. Indeed, it's even worse, because those who are interrogated, strip-searched and detained are not criminals, but children. New Times claims that a few minimal due process protections are meant to ensure "parents' rights" more loaded language instead of the child's right not to be torn from everyone he knows and loves. And instead of suggesting drug treatment, New Times says Arizona desperately needs a law allowing automatic confiscation of a child whenever any parent abuses any drug under any circumstances.

So, tell me again: Who are the liberals here?

If the pattern elsewhere holds, eventually the governor, the Legislature, and the various committees and commissions will realize that child removal does not equal child safety and, in fact, you can't have child safety without family preservation. The only question is: How many more innocent children will be traumatized by needless foster care placement, and how many more will have to give their lives before the message sinks in?

Richard Wexler, Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform Alexandria, Virginia

Cabinet work: Congratulations to Amy Silverman for writing an objective account of the mess known as Child Protective Services in Arizona. Ms. Silverman did an adequate job of presenting some of the issues which have critically weakened CPS case managers' ability to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect.

Ms. Silverman was correct in saying that the workers are underpaid and overworked. I disagree with the statement that they are undertrained. "Inadequate" best describes the training new intake (investigative) case managers receive. Furthermore, they are not accurately informed of the number of cases they will be assigned in a given week. That number can vary from one area to another. Telling workers they will get an average of three to five new cases per week (a number omitted from the article) is misleading. Some intake workers are assigned as many as six to eight new cases per week.

In the article, Ms. Silverman describes Model Court as a success. In the eyes of the Court, perhaps it is. However, the article makes no mention of the fact that, when faced with a Model Court dependency, the intake worker has only three to five days to complete an investigation and a day or two to prepare a court report. This is hardly sufficient if one is to expect a complete investigation of allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Although Ms. Silverman addressed the Removal Review Teams, she neglected to say that these teams include only one person who has actually gone out into the field to investigate the allegations or has been in the parents' home the intake case manager. Everyone else on the team may have their own agenda regarding the removal of the child or children involved. The dichotomy of "family preservation versus child safety" frequently comes into play at this level.

In the case of Anndreah Robertson, the front-page case about the infant who died from alleged exposure to drug use by the mother and grandmother, the Arizona Republic crucified the intake worker's actions but ignored the fact that the case manager was one of several individuals who were involved in the decision-making process. The Republic columnist made the worker the scapegoat for this tragedy while ignoring the fact that several others should have shared the blame. The agency backed up the worker but failed to acknowledge that the removal review team shared in the decision to leave the infant in the home.

Intake workers are leaving CPS faster than the agency can fill the vacancies. Who wants to be the "whipping boy (or girl)" for the media or CPS when a child tragically dies when left in the home of an alleged abuser?

I truly wish that Ms. Silverman had delved deeper into the issues which plague CPS. However, I was pleased that she exposed the fact that legislators interfere in the process through the ombudsman's office. I applaud Ms. Mang for citing the fact that lawmakers have attempted to use their office to influence decisions made by CPS and the administrative officials who decide if an allegation is substantiated or unsubstantiated.

I commend your publication for having the courage to point out that it will take more than commissions and subcommittees to bring about change. Governor Napolitano and Noreen Sharp have a challenging task ahead. I pray that, when they receive the reports from these committees in June this year, they will do more than "moving chairs on the Titanic," because that is my greatest fear in this situation.

Our governor pledged to make child safety the number one priority of CPS. Formation of the "Children's Cabinet" was a nice first step but is just so much rhetoric if neither this body nor Governor Napolitano has the courage to impose a major shakeup in CPS. We don't need more rhetoric. What these children need is real action. Let's pray that such action results from the work of the Children's Cabinet and the committees that have been created.

Name withheld by request

Law Law Land

Joe foe: I just read your article on Sheriff Joe's antics of late ("Gag of an Order," Robert Nelson, March 6). I am profoundly grateful that there are still reporters like you around to continue to expose Sheriff Joe for what he is a murderer and human rights violator. I believe, and numerous articles and evidence have shown, his continued exploitation of the incarcerated population under his "care."

Now, don't get me wrong, I know that most of those incarcerated deserve to be where they are, but there is no excuse for the human rights violations of this man.

How does he continue to get reelected? I don't understand. But then again, I don't understand many things that are going on in our country today. Like the office of "homeland security" virtually eliminating our rights to privacy under the guise of "securing us from terrorists."

Thanks again for standing up for what is right (correct)! You not only crossed all your "t's" and dotted your "i's" when it came to the investigation, but you have the evidence to prove it!

Mary Ann Fierros
Phoenix

Right-minded: So many civil rights being violated, and the taxpayers get the bills to defend Sheriff Joe. If a reporter for New Times loses the right to freedom of expression, we all lose a basic constitutional right.

Virginia Chaffin
Phoenix

Gag reflex: I am writing simply to compliment and tell you how much I enjoyed reading your column "Gag of an Order." I am somewhat familiar with the McGee case, and I do recall reading previous related New Times articles. It is disturbing to learn of the extent that the MCSO has gone to attempting to "break open a case" with a scapegoat like McGee. I am so glad and grateful that there is someone out there such as yourself with the means and motivation to bravely expose at least some of the unjust criminal activity that occurs certainly almost daily among Sheriff Joe and his cronies!

Hopefully, McGee will overcome this chapter in his troubled life, and maybe something good will come of this tragic unsolved murder. I believe he will have his day in court and be awarded a hefty settlement for his human rights violations! Keep up the modern-day muckraking! We need more people like you in journalism! Hats off to you, Robert Nelson!

Tony Pignato
Via e-mail

Crime and Punishment

Psycho therapy: As someone named in Susy Buchanan's excellent article, "Very Bad Thoughts" (February 6), I wish to amplify several points. First, Derek has a very valid point. Society is quite willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars incarcerating a person after a crime (and a victim) but makes it extremely difficult to seek the help necessary to prevent the crime. Two: Not all pedophiles are child molesters (Derek admits to being a pedophile but has not acted out), and not all child molesters are pedophiles (I have a very happy marriage, have molested, but am not a pedophile according to professional diagnosis). Three: Correct therapy works! I will never molest again. I know what my triggers are and can easily avoid them.

Those who commit sex crimes against children vary enormously from each other. The murderers of Polly Klaas and Megan Kanka are the most horrid extreme and receive the most publicity. At the other extreme may be the person who takes a photo of a bathing and unaware child. I'm not either extreme. And lastly, as indicated from other letters: People don't choose to be victims, but many choose to remain victims. We as a society can do better.

Lester Welch
Via e-mail

Hippie Replacement

Viewpoint of contention: I recently read a column in your paper about the recent war protests ("Not The Usual Suspects," Rick Barrs, February 20). I am very offended by the stereotype of old hippies being there at peace vigils. I was there, and I am not a hippie nor am I old; I am 19. So if your paper is going to cover a story, make sure you don't let the author's own point of view get in the way. That's not what a good journalist does.

Jason Sykes
Apache Junction

Arabian fights: I read with pained amusement Rick Barrs' "Not the Usual Suspects," his profile of Phoenix-area Iraq war protesters. Retired dentist Pete Slover caught my eye with his wild claim that the U.S. has supported the Israelis' killing of "Arabs" for years, and proclaimed the September 11 gang as veritable "heroes."

Reflexive anti-Americanism is always a hoot, especially when spewed with typical nonsensical vitriol. Slover forgets rather conveniently that the Palestinians (not Arabs, sir) were sold out by their Arab brethren years ago. Those occupied territories? The Palestinians could be in Jordan, Syria or Egypt instead of the squalid camps, except for the fact that those countries don't want those folks any more than the Israelis, and closed their doors years ago because they would rather use them to score political points with their own citizens. The Palestinians were offered more concessions by Prime Minister Ehud Barak than they'll ever get anytime soon, and they chose to throw bombs.

Blood is on both sides' hands, but let's face facts. If the Palestinians had leaders with anything even remotely resembling competence, they could have employed nonviolent civil disobedience, and they would have had their state years ago. No country has the ability to defy moral weight such as that for long.

Protesters, when they exercise their right against an iffy war like the potential Iraq war, may have a point. Alas, many of these same protesters turned out en masse against the war on terrorism before it even began, negating any relevancy they may have had to the national security debate. Our country does not have the right to basic self-defense? Going after responsible parties may make the Middle East angrier? That's like saying, after Pearl Harbor, that going after the Japanese will only tick off their navy that much more. If the terrorists became angrier, what could they do? Plow loaded jetliners into major American landmarks? Wait they already did that! How could they possibly be more pissed-off?

I do not doubt that the U.S. should do a better job of changing our image in the Middle East. We need to encourage democracy and jettison our support of failed states that make democracy look like a bad joke. But the point remains -- some, if not most, of the Arab hatred of the U.S. is just a new manifestation of age-old plain vanilla hysteria. After some bilge about the U.S. and Israel, there exist few, if any, actual serious discussions about U.S. policy. The word "arrogance" gets thrown in our face quite a bit these days, but then again, "medieval," "ignorant" and "inconsequential" could be returned more accurately.

The Middle East once held the promise of advanced civilization and hosted a religion best known for its tolerance, discipline and respect. Only once the pipe dream of an Israel pushed into the sea and the use of religion for inherently immoral acts is jettisoned can the real, hard work of civilization-building begin. Blaming America is the easy part. We'll see if they've got the stomach for when the heavy lifting is required to make their societies better for all who live in them.

Name withheld by request

Cocked and Loaded

Too tough to die: Good article ("And Then He Killed Me [Allegedly]," Serene Dominic, February 13), but conspicuous by its absence was the famous story of Phil Spector holding the Ramones hostage at gunpoint in his mansion for several days during the recording of their End of the Century album. I think I have read that tale recounted by more than one of the Ramones in different locations, but I am pretty sure it is covered in Dee Dee's chilling autobiography in some detail.

Donny Payjack
Phoenix

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