Thanks to some outstanding reporting by New Times, we know that the children the agency is supposed to serve can't say the same. On the contrary, Sarah Fenske's story makes clear that three and a half years of trying still haven't undone the harm caused by Governor Napolitano's slash-and-burn, take-the-child-and-run rhetoric in her first four months in office.

A few footnotes to the story:

The Minnesota study cited in the story isn't the only one showing the enormous harm of needless foster care. A recent study of foster care alumni, from systems better than Arizona's, found they had twice the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder as Gulf War veterans, and only 20 percent were doing well.

Official figures on the rate of abuse in foster care are worthless because they involve agencies investigating themselves, creating an enormous incentive to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and write no evil in the case file. That same study of foster care alumni found that one-third said they'd been abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home. The study didn't even ask about one of the most common forms of abuse: foster children abusing each other. Other studies find similar high rates of abuse in foster care. The record of group homes and institutions is even worse.

Some shelter operators and their allies were not just innocent bystanders who had children dumped at their doors. Some fomented the Arizona Foster-Care Panic at every turn, rushing to feed horror stories to reporters and tell them that every child taken away really needed to be in foster care. One shelter advocate even said they were necessary in order to take children from mothers whose only crime was to be beaten by their husbands or boyfriends — even though, as one leading expert put it, the harm done to children when they are taken away under such circumstances is "tantamount to pouring salt into an open wound."

You don't need to go to Romania to find out such places are bad for children. A comprehensive study of shelters designed specifically for foster children in Connecticut found that children who went through shelters tended to have worse outcomes than those who didn't. The only thing the shelters were good at was wasting huge sums of money.

All this means any notion that the foster care panic would have been okay if only there had been the resources to back it up is nonsense. No amount of money can make up for the harm done to a child when his or her family is needlessly destroyed. That's why there are, in fact, "completely innocent victims" in all this. They're the thousands of children taken from homes that were safe or could have been made safe with the right kinds of help, who instead were shoveled into a system that churns out walking wounded four times out of five.
Richard Wexler, executive director, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

Homo Sapient

Gay pride: Now that Janet Napolitano has been reelected, I think she should come out as a lesbian ("Reality Check," The Bird, Stephen Lemons, November 2). There's nothing to lose, and it's the only fair thing to do. It would prove that she stands up for her people.

Some of my gay and lesbian friends accused The Bird of gross sensationalism for mentioning the gay question concerning the governor, but it is something that is on the minds of most people who encounter her, especially those of us who are gay. It definitely becomes an issue when a politician opposes something so important to the gay community as gay marriage.
Zachery John, Phoenix

Nobody's business: As a former Arizona resident, I can agree that Janet Napolitano definitely comes off as a closeted lesbian. However, I think your question of the governor was offensive for a couple of reasons.

First off, Janet's sexual preferences are private and none of anyone's business. Now, if she had been caught committing ethically questionable acts (like U.S. congressmen Mark Foley and maybe Jim Kolbe), it would become public business. Until then, Janet should be able to choose how much she shares with the public.

Secondly, imagine for just a moment if Janet were straight. How potentially hurtful would your question be?

Finally, I think your question and column are sexist. You're insinuating that if Janet isn't gay, she needs to do more to look like a woman. That if her image changed, you could accept that she was straight. Doesn't a woman have the right to dress/act/carry herself however she chooses? Hillary Clinton, for years, has faced questions over her sexuality, even being very publicly married. Many liberals have wondered, over the years, if the rampant rumors of Mrs. Clinton's lesbianism were a gut reaction on the part of right-wing males secretly afraid of powerful women. Is that your problem, I wonder?

Being a political geek, I can tell you that Napolitano is, hands down, one of the five best governors in the nation. Maybe you should stop looking a gift horse in the mouth. Or maybe you'd like a return to Mecham/Symington politics?
Ryan Tobias, Portland, Oregon

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