I found it sadly ironic that New York State is charged with determining how much to blame the Monroe County Department of Human and Health Services for the death of AJ Gibson, when New York State has consistently refused to sufficiently fund child-abuse prevention programs and vetoed reform bills.
As much as we, as a culture, like to demonize parents who maltreat their children, there certain risk factors that predispose a new parent to becoming abusive, just as there are risk factors that predispose healthy people to illnesses like diabetes. And when new parents with enough risk factors are enrolled in programs that help them bond with their baby, teach them about parenting and child development, and help them put their own lives back on track, the odds of them maltreating their children plummet.
This isn't a new concept; very effective, evidence-based programs have been around for over 30 years. The problem is, they are so under-funded that less than 10 percent of eligible families in New York have access to them.
Healthy Families New York, the state's premier program, has not had a funding increase in years, and when inflation and rising gas costs are taken into account, this amounts to a funding cut. This year, we have a chance to demand more money for HFNY in the budget, and legislation will be voted on that would structure a gradual funding increase so that HFNY programs can expand until every eligible family will have access to them.
The legislature will also vote on a bill to start a model Dual Track child-protective system, which gives CPS caseworkers more freedom to focus on evaluating and meeting a family's needs and puts less emphasis on investigating whether a particular incidence of abuse occurred. As AJ's case demonstrates, it is possible for investigators to evaluate individual allegations of abuse and not see the big picture because there is so much pressure on them to finish one investigation and start the next in a never-ending list.
Many states have adopted similar programs, and states that do can demonstrate a drop in families repeatedly maltreating their children.
As long as we insist on placing all the blame for cases like AJ's on a very over-burdened CPS system, and refuse to look at things that keep children and families out of it at the first place, the grief and rage of our community is being misdirected. And in the process, we are guaranteeing that cases like this will keep happening.
Melanie Blow, Augustine Street, Rochester (Blow is a board member of Prevent Child Abuse NY)
President Bush said that the FISA law requiring warrants for wiretapping, passed in 1978, was old and dated. In response, a February 8 letter writer suggested that Mr. Bush be reminded that the Constitution, ratified in 1789, "still works pretty darn good." ("Ancient Wisdom," The Mail.)
Save your breath. According to media reports, at a meeting of Republican congressional leaders last November, an aide informed Mr. Bush that provisions in the Patriot Act undermine the Constitution. The president yelled back: "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It's just a goddammed piece of paper!"
While eager for surveillance of others, with or without FISA, Bush himself wants privacy. He stated some time ago that he would no longer e-mail his daughters because everything he wrote would be read by others.
Byrna Weir, Brighton
Pitchforks and torches? Wouldn't waste the Gulflite ("Get That Emperor Some Clothes," January 25). Woody Allen is perennially viewed as undressed precisely because of his greatness. Beatles overrated too? Why should I even go on?
I do empathize with Papaleo, though; to this day, I can't see what Bob Hope and Ethel Merman had going for them. But that's probably because I was playing with blocks at the time.
Mark Mason, Oxford Street
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