Confidentiality protects people who report abuse
Articles that criticize the confidentiality of child welfare records consistently miss the reasons it is so essential for us to protect the privacy of children in state care and their families ("Critics aim to reduce secrecy in foster care," April 17, and "Confidentiality used to conceal pattern of abuse," letters, April 21).
Social service caseworkers charged with protecting the safety of our children rely on good information about incidents of abuse and neglect to make solid decisions about placement and treatment.
Parents and others caring for children talk more frankly with caseworkers knowing that the sensitive information they provide will be kept confidential.
The Maryland Department of Human Resources works with hospitals, police and schools to protect children. When possible, we provide information, within the law, that illuminates the public about our work.
But just as physicians cannot discuss their patients' sensitive medical issues with outsiders, DHR cannot customarily disclose information of children in our care and the delicate details of their cases.
This responsibility is dictated by state and federal law - and by common sense.
Without these legal protections, it would be much more difficult for caseworkers and courts to learn the intimate circumstances that accompany many instances of child abuse and treatment.
The result would be disastrous, as more problems would remain hidden from the caseworkers who work in the best interests of our children.
Norris P. West
The writer is communications director for the state Department of Human Resources.
Will pharmacists pay child support?
Leonard Pitts Jr. is right to criticize the gall of pharmacists who refuse to dispense morning-after pills on religious grounds ("Didn't they read the job description?" Opinion * Commentary, April 24).
But this situation is even worse than the analogy Mr. Pitts offers of the refusal of a clerk at Blockbuster to rent R-rated movies. These pharmacists are, in effect, trying to decide for a woman when she should have a baby. Will they pay child support?
Tall towers aren't the key to revival
As a Mount Vernon resident, I read with great interest "City plan to raise height limits raises hackles in Mount Vernon" (April 24).
The developers, as usual, say that a height limit of anything shorter than 200 feet would make new building pointless. But isn't it interesting that AEGON is satisfied with building a condominium project of four levels of housing over two levels of parking on Charles Street between Preston and Biddle streets ("Mount Vernon group OKs $20 million condo project," Sept. 9).
Of course, AEGON was willing to work with its neighbors in improving our historic neighborhood.
I lived for years in the historic Logan Circle neighborhood in Washington, where the height limit is basically 10 floors. I saw that neighborhood go from a crime-ridden area to an economically vibrant community in just a few years. And all this was possible without buildings taller than 10 floors.
It's time for the politicians to listen to the citizens, not to the developers who contribute to their campaigns.
G. Byron Stover
The writer is a member of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association.
Foreign-born labor does the dirty work
I hope the current legislative efforts on behalf of Maryland's seafood industry ("Crab pickers turn to House for seasonal-worker visas," April 23) will help shuck some persistent myths about foreign-born workers.
Far from stealing our jobs or negatively impacting our overall quality of life, such temporary employees actually perform a big service for us. They are willing to do the unglamorous, low-paying tasks that many of us benefit from but prefer to avoid ourselves.
Think about that while you're enjoying steamed crabs this summer.
Venomous words debase our discourse
The letter "Attacks on DeLay defy all decency" (April 24) highlights what is wrong with the tone of politics in this country.
The following is a list of the phrases in the letter: "baseless complaints," "overwhelming deficit of decency," "baseless and vicious, self-serving attacks," "moral leprosy" and "depraved double standard" - in addition to comparing the Democratic Party to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Instead of polite discourse in which differences are aired, too many people take to language that further polarizes this country.
It is bad enough that talk radio stirs the pot of divisiveness. It is disheartening when these venomous words are in The Sun.
The Sun should make it its policy to air only those opinions that are written in a civilized tone. Maybe we can then begin to heal the divisions among us.
Howard S. Bernstein
Kid-friendly league lets baseball flourish
As executive director of Bethesda Chevy Chase Baseball Inc., I read with interest Joe Burris' article on youth baseball ("Baseball is less of a hit among kids in America," April 24). And I agree with Mr. Burris' assessment about the interest in faster-paced games.
However, our league is proof that a "kid-friendly" league can be very successful. We have modified the rules of baseball to provide fair and equitable playing time for our kids. And we do not have rules that prevent classmates and friends from playing together.
Since its founding in 1993, our the league has grown from 600 kids to about 4,500 kids ages 6 to 18 who play baseball in the fall, spring and summer.
Perhaps the larger national organizations should take a page from our book.
Japanese politician did win Nobel Prize
Michael Hill's article "Owning up to World War II actions" (April 24) is generally quite good but concludes on a misleading note when it quotes a University of Maryland professor as saying, "As far as I know, no Japanese political leader has won the Nobel Peace Prize."
In fact, Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato won the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Ireland's Sean MacBride.
Whether or not Mr. Sato deserved it is another question, but he certainly won it, or at least a 50 percent share of it.
The writer is a professor of Japanese and history at the University of California, Davis.