Divorced fathers shouldn't be treated just as cash cows
In response to Vice President Al Gore's charge to dads to "step up to their responsibilities" and pay child support, I challenge him, and other politicians, to step into the shoes of a divorced dad for one year ("Gore presses fathers to pay child support," Oct. 21).
Go one year seeing your children every other weekend and maybe two weeks in the summer and paying perhaps half your income to someone who has no legal obligation to spend that money on your children or work to support herself.
Throw in a few disappointing weekends when you are denied legal access to your children and you begin to see the plight of the divorced dad in America.
It is time for politicians to stand up for the father's right to equal access to his children. A father's love and interaction with children, not money, provide the "transforming experience" the vice president mentioned.
But for far too long, politicians have seen fathers as nothing more than dollar signs.
The current system of child support and visitation in this country is similar to taxation without representation: The government takes a father's money but gives him no rights in his child's life.
Timothy S. Eutin, LaVale
Adversarial divorces can be hard for kids
Those of us who work with children and parents of divorce know that the level of conflict between parents is the best predictor of how well children adjust to divorce ("Divorced fathers revolt," Opinion Commentary, Oct. 22).
In the year following a divorce, parenting skills suffer as parents often become preoccupied with their own needs and exhibit increased anger, depression, confusion and emotional instability. This retards their ability to remain sensitive to their children's needs.
Separated and divorced adults have higher rates of psychological disorders, clinical depression, alcoholism and psychosomatic problems than other adults.
Litigation can exacerbate the stress -- by intensifying conflict, reducing communication and encouraging fault-finding.
Alternative approaches, like child-focused mediation, can help divorcing parents refocus on their children's needs.
Thomas K. Swisher, Ellicott City
The writer is an attorney and mediator and chief executive officer of the Resolution Center.
Burdensome caseloads put children at risk
The Sun covered the new requirement that state child welfare workers pass a competency exam and the state's revamping of its salary scale for social and human service workers ("Social work test to show competence," Oct. 17).
But the article neglected to mention that the legislation which required those changes also recommends that the state reduce these workers' caseloads.
The original bill would have mandated that caseloads be reduced to 12 investigations or 20 foster care or adoption cases, but this was struck from the bill.
Maryland Human Resources Secretary Lynda G. Fox has been working diligently to establish standards and recruit additional social services staff.
However, until the General Assembly provides the funds needed to reduce caseload size considerably, the state will continue to have difficulty attracting and retaining competent child welfare staff.
The state's attempt to improve child welfare services is admirable. But until realistic workloads are implemented, no amount of testing or pay will prevent the rapid burnout of staff.
This ultimately places children at risk.
Alan L. Katz , Owings Mills
What about children who aren't beauty queens?
The death of a young beautiful child is a terrible thing (No justice for JonBenet," editorial, Oct. 14). More terrible is the neglect of the killing of hundreds of other young children because they were not beauty queens.
The funds spent on the Ramsey investigation could have helped solve other crimes and eased the unthinkable pain of some of those parents who have also suffered a terrible loss.
Stephan Brooks, Reisterstown
Let parents choose how to protect children It's ironic that the governor, who supports a woman's right to abortion, is asking Maryland's Catholics to back his latest gun control initiative "for the children" ("Roman Catholics are asked to back 'smart gun' plan," Oct. 19).
I hope the Catholic community continues its policy of defending, life by allowing women to choose for themselves how to best protect their children from violence.
Obviously, our government has neither the will or ability to do that.
Donald E. Murphy, Annapolis
The writer represents District 12A in the Maryland House of Delegates.
State reaps benefits from private education
In her recent letter, Karen Teplitzky took Elaine Hanus to task for suggesting that parents who use private schools deserve thanks for the money they save all taxpayers. She compared private school parents to other citizens who pay for many services they may never use ("We must all support public education and other critical services," Oct 22).
I might agree with Ms. Teplitzky, except that citizens who may not use the local fire department or senior center are not required to provide the same service themselves. But parents who opt out of the public schools are so required by the state's compulsory school attendance laws.
As a result, the state is in the unfair position of providing financial support to only those citizens who use government schools, while it benefits from the well-educated, values-oriented graduates of private and parochial schools.
John D. Schiavone, Kingsville
Real transit solutions begin with light rail
In a recent column, Barry Rascovar argued that failing to build the Intercounty Connector will cause businesses to flee Montgomery County and move across the Potomac ("He chose the road untaken," Opinion Commentary, Oct. 17).
Obviously, Mr. Rascovar hasn't driven much in Virginia lately. The highway-builders have had a free hand in Fairfax County, yet Tysons Corner traffic is much worse than anything in Maryland.
Traffic has gotten so bad that even northern Virginia's business bosses have finally figured out that more roads won't solve congestion. They now want to build 84 miles of Metro and light rail lines in the next 20 years, starting with a new Metro line to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport.
It's time to forget about the ICC. Real transportation solutions for the Washington suburbs begin with the University of Maryland's proposal for light rail from College Park to Bethesda and New Carrollton.
Ben Ross, Bethesda
The writer is president of the Action Committee for Transit.