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DSS must find new places for teens in trouble

How did Baltimore's Department of Social Services get to the point of placing teenagers in an office building overnight and sometimes over the weekend ("State uses downtown office to house troubled teens," June 14)?

This office building is not a licensed foster care shelter; it doesn't have showers and it doesn't meet other basic requirements to be licensed as a shelter. The office is zoned as a commercial building. The children slept in chairs and on the floor. Some children who slept on the floor were given mattresses.

If that wasn't disturbing enough, DSS officials seem to blame the children for being placed in the office space. They contend that the children were too difficult to place, and they even assert that some children wanted to spend the night in an office building.

For DSS to blame a problem it created on children whom the department is directed to protect and who are the victims of abuse and neglect is outrageous.

The department's obligations are clear. Children who require its protection are to be placed with relatives, in foster care or in a group care setting.

The serious shortage of placement resources for teenagers is not a new problem. But it has not been aggressively addressed by the department.

DSS has failed to do enough to increase the number of foster care placements that serve teenagers with children, teenagers with special medical needs, teenagers with mental health needs and teenagers who are eligible for independent living to meet the demand.

Clearly, DSS' energies need to be refocused and directed toward developing and licensing of short-term shelters and long-term placements for teenagers that support their quest for independence.

Joan F. Little


The writer is the chief attorney of the Legal Aid Bureau's Child Advocacy Unit.

Subsidizing driving hasn't cut congestion

It was disappointing to read The Sun's article "Hundreds gather to decry bus route changes" (June 14) with its reference to "taxpayer subsidies for MTA routes."

For generations, we've poured billions of dollars into highways and parking lots while allowing our transit system to deteriorate.

We've treated transit as an entitlement program for the poor, while subsidies for driving have gone unquestioned.

The result: Baltimore's traffic congestion outpaces job and population growth, our air quality is abysmal and our downtown and traditional communities continue to struggle.

To be a world-class city, Baltimore needs to invest in a world-class transit system and stop subsidizing parking lots and highways.

Without fresh leadership willing to build a better, faster, more efficient transit system that can attract new riders and foster transit-oriented development, the entire region - drivers and transit riders - will continue to be stuck in traffic for generations to come.

Mark Counselman


Show us evidence detainees are guilty

Jules Witcover notes that the Bush administration is on the defensive regarding prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere ("Gitmo debate turns up heat on Bush team," Opinion Commentary, June 15).

Vice President Dick Cheney dismissed critics by saying that they "probably don't agree with our policies anyway."

Mr. Cheney is correct, for once. Organizations such as Amnesty International do not agree with policies that include indefinite detention without charges being filed, no right for prisoners to see the evidence against them and the de facto acceptance of torture. I believe most Americans do not agree with such policies, either.

After all, how do we know that the detainees are, in fact, "hard core" bad guys?

Let the proof be presented, or let them go.

Martin S. Lefstein


The wars of the past kept our nation free

In answer to the column "Generation Y's silent protest" (Opinion Commentary, June 16) and the writer's glib dismissal of "older Americans' perceived need for war," I would suggest that perhaps he should realize that it was these old men who fought the battles that kept our great republic free and allow him to enjoy his college days in carefree comfort.

George Pfeiffer

Bel Air

Heed the voices of those who teach

How is it possible that The Sun could write a long article about middle schools ("Middle schools falling short in assessment test," June 11) without quoting even one of the many thousands of women and men who enter middle school classrooms every day, devoting countless hours to preparing young people for these tests and building other skills in the hope that they can live purposeful lives?

Teachers have a wealth of experience to share with anyone willing to listening, but that has always been a very short list.

Believe me, we know what works and what doesn't. We see it every single day.

Peter French


The writer is a middle school teacher in Baltimore's public schools.

Steele would be big asset in Senate

I am so pleased that Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele is preparing to run for the U.S. Senate ("Steele tests waters for possible Senate bid," June 16).

It's time we had a principled elected official representing the state in the Senate.

Mr. Steele will be a valuable advocate for all Marylanders.

Catherine Cravath

Montgomery Village

Take the initiative by picking up trash

The trash problem in the city is horrendous, and it has many causes. But it has only one solution: Pick it up ("City launches initiative to boost trash-can use," June 12)

I know this is a crazy concept, but as a landlord in Baltimore, I have seen the city trash collection process firsthand - and I know that city trash collectors often leave more behind than they pick up.

We don't need a study regarding "barrier analysis" to determine why people don't put their trash into cans. What difference does it make why people don't put their trash into cans? We still have to pick it up sooner or later.

Here's another crazy idea: Why don't we send out more trash trucks and more collectors, with brooms and shovels on the trucks, and have them sweep the alleys and pick up bulk trash, loose trash, heavy bags, trash improperly bagged - all of the trash?

But I already know the answer to this question: Because it is trash, and no one wants it, and no one wants to pay to have it picked up.

David W. Baker


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