Child Care is a Community IssueBravo to...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Child Care is a Community Issue

Bravo to Ellen Goodman for her column on Feb. 19, "A speak-out on child care." Now that we have an attorney-general-to-be, it seems that the child care dilemma is yesterday's news. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While we in Maryland are fortunate to have a very able resource and referral agency in the Maryland Committee for Children and a state licensing system that seeks to ensure a minimum standard of quality, millions of parents face the child care dilemma.

The difficulties of finding quality care, whether in the home, with a family provider, or center-based, are no longer just private family matters to be discussed around the kitchen table. The problems associated with finding good child care affect each and every one of us.

Employers are affected when employees need to stay home with a sick child, are late to work if a nanny is late, or are constantly worried about whether the child is in a safe, stimulating and learning environment.

Our children either flourish or languish in their early development that is so crucial to their healthy growth. The issue is no longer whether someone is a "good" parent or a "bad" parent for seeking child care. The issues are quality, cost and availability.

The reality is that the majority of women are part of the work force, most by necessity. If women and men are carrying equivalent workloads, men must come to the understanding that managing the rest of their lives (i.e. dinner, house cleaning, errands, etc.) is not a woman's job.

Unfortunately, The Sun, in its editorial "Good News on Child Care" (Feb. 14), while appropriately lauding Maryland's child care successes, made a crucial mistake in stating, "Most working mothers are not candidates for cabinet posts, but each of them knows the special anxiety that comes from the tug of dual responsibilities." The sentence should have read "Most working parents. . . "

It is unfortunate that society has not yet come to realize that it is both parents who must bear the dual responsibilities of providing financial support and emotional support to the family.

Child care is not and should not be seen as a "woman's issue." While each couple must manage this delicate balancing act in their own way, it is time for everyone (individuals as well as employers) to realize that balancing is required for dads as well as moms.

Finally, parents must understand that they are not alone. Each one of us faces these critical issues.

It is no sign of weakness or ineptitude to acknowledge that, while we feel isolated with our own personal experience, child care is a community issue that can no longer be ignored.

Shelly Laskin Hettleman

Baltimore

Paternity Law

The axiom "haste makes waste" is exemplified by the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee's premature vote -- perhaps because its chairman is under pressure to move bills quickly -- on the bill permitting a father to declare paternity via affidavit at the time of his child's birth.

The unfavorable outcome of this hasty action reportedly arose from the committee's belief that paternity matters should be prosecuted in the courts; under the proposed legislation that would have continued to happen in contested cases.

The now dead bill would only have made it convenient and easy for fathers to voluntarily acknowledge their children if they wished to do so.

Of course, the expense to taxpayers of tracking dads down later to accomplish the same goal would also have been lessened.

The bill's demise is ironic since three of four fathers, when located, do voluntarily acknowledge paternity.

Moreover, the sooner paternity is established, the more likely it is that support will be paid, and some public assistance costs may, perhaps, be averted.

West Virginia's in-hospital paternity project was so successful it has been expanded statewide. Programs in Virginia, Michigan and Washington have likewise reduced costs and increased the number of children who start life with two legal parents, not just one.

Given Maryland's high rate of non-marital pregnancy and our ongoing need to reduce the costs of accomplishing socially desirable goals such as paternity establishment, this decision was both hasty and wasteful.

Catherine Born

Baltimore

Good Program

The president's economic message to the Congress was masterful and encouraging.

It showed a brilliant, serious and determined leader who fully understands the economic problems facing this country, and who has a comprehensive plan for solving them.

Moreover, he challenged the Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to stop playing politics with the national debt and the deficit. One hopes that he will stand by his program and not be too much of a compromiser.

What a refreshing change after 12 years of greed, hypocrisy and lack of concern for the common good.

Alfred S. Sharlip

Columbia

So True

The "seven ages of man" have posed their individual problems since time immemorial.

Jack Levin's Feb. 9 article, "The Golden Years," should be a real eye opener for these not yet at this period in their lives -- objective and so true.

Thanks for publishing it.

Myrtle C. Lobig

Baltimore

Retire Later

Bravo to The Sun for the Feb. 8 editorial on Social Security. We should stop wasting money and human resources by causing people to retire at age 65. This is an issue we can't tippy-toe around anymore. Someone must force Congress and the oldsters to face up to it.

That same someone (hopefully, President Clinton) must force Congress to face the deficit issue. (Technically, Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. By law, it was removed from the budget several years ago.)

The issue is government spending, which is totally out of control. Percentage-wise, Americans are taxed at all levels of government more than we have ever been.

The answer is not higher taxes, it is reduced spending. President Clinton mentioned attacking the bureaucracy, the subsidies, the commissions and so on. More power to him.

Mostly, we need leadership in Congress that is more concerned with the financial integrity of the nation than with their own re-election. Term limits is one answer that emerges as a means of getting the new breed of legislator our financial situation demands. Perhaps Ross Perot's organization is one force to help bring this about.

Franklin W. Littleton

Baltimore

Shame on Those Who Closed County Libraries

Today only half of the U.S. population reads a newspaper, and among the top 20 nations for per capita newspaper circulation, the U.S. places 19th -- behind nearly all the modern industrial powers.

How ironic then to read of The Sun's endorsement (Feb. 11) of Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden's decision to close nine libraries and, worse yet, to suggest that he shows courage in making this decision.

Of special concern to us, as educators whose jobs are directly related to literacy, are the small library branches in Dundalk, Turners Station, Edgemere and Lansdowne.

According to "Becoming a Nation of Readers," public and school libraries "are especially important for children who come from poor homes." Literacy is best fostered when children are exposed to books, and for children who do not grow up in homes where books are readily available the public library is the crucial component for extending literacy.

As the schools endeavor to implement literature-based instructional programs and to foster a love of books, the neighborhood library is the natural vehicle for reinforcing a love of reading and learning.

These libraries have provided services for children such as summer reading programs and homework clubs and also service the senior citizens who are often unable to leave the community to visit another branch.

How can a newspaper support the removal of such a vital link in the building of literacy skills, especially at a time when we are facing a critical literacy deficit in our nation?

We take issue with the view of Charles Robinson, the county library director, that "consolidation will pose minimal hardship in the commuter culture of Baltimore County."

Isn't there another way to distribute hardship? People of means who live in other areas could surely accept their branches closing one evening a week. Many of us have learned to live without Sunday hours. Aren't we willing to give up a little more so that all citizens will receive equal access to reading materials?

As it stands now, for children from communities such as Turners Station and Edgemere, books will no longer be accessible; many students will seldom have the opportunity to visit a library. Not everyone in Baltimore County owns a car or is able to drive. Traveling four miles by bus and having to transfer is out of the question for many. In contrast, in more affluent areas of Baltimore County, reading materials are readily available in the home, and multicar families find little hardship commuting to other branch libraries.

We strongly disagree with Mr. Robinson's statement that the closing of these libraries is "a very, very good compromise."

In a compromise, both parties lose something and both gain something. In our opinion, the citizens in these communities have gained nothing except perhaps more time for television viewing.

Educational research shows us in no uncertain terms that good readers come from homes with plenty of books and from families which frequently visit libraries.

We, as advocates for the children and families we serve, support the notion of equality for all. Shame on those in the decision-making process who did not even look for a way to make this possible.

Anne Werps

Ann Tanner

Dundalk

The writers are reading specialist and media specialist, respectively, at Dundalk Middle School.

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