Letters to the Editor

Building Ill Will
A program run by 100 Black Men of Broward County promised new houses for families but has produced only complaints
By Julie Kay

Promise Breakers
On November 22, 1999, I signed a letter of agreement with 100 Black Men and gave them a $1000 deposit ("Building Ill Will," Julie Kay, March 2). I too was promised all kinds of amenities, and all I got was the runaround. On my letter of agreement, it stated that, five days after signing it, a final sales contract was supposed to be signed, which was never done.

I tried to talk to them many times after that and spoke to Andre Williams, who assured me that everything was OK, until January came around. I then decided to withdraw from the deal and wrote them a withdrawal letter and gave them 21 days to respond. I got no phone call, no return letter, nothing! I have contacted WSVN-7's Help Me Howard for some assistance, because I can't afford a lawyer. It really surprised me how many other people fell into the same trap.

It is so sad that, like the article said, someone of our own color would do this to us. I mean, you try to support our black businesses, and look what happens. All I want is my $1000 returned, half of my life's savings. I truly thank you for writing this article, because it made more people aware of what is going on, so people can stay away if they are considering having a home built. It is very devastating to have everything you hope and dream of become a nightmare.

Barbara Smith
via the Internet

Take the Child and Run
Critics says that's the guiding philosophy of Department of Children and Families' boss, Kathleen Kearney
By Emma Trelles

Foster Care or Fostering Hate?
Congratulations to New Times and reporter Emma Trelles for shedding light on the harm done by the mindless removal of thousands of children from their homes by the Florida Department of Children and Families ("Take the Child and Run," February 24). Though Kathleen Kearney may consider her approach an example of "better safe than sorry," it actually leaves children far less safe.

The majority of parents who lose their children to the foster-care system are neither brutally abusive nor hopelessly addicted. Far more common are cases in which a family's poverty is confused with child "neglect." Other cases fall on a continuum between the extremes, the parents neither all victim nor all villain.

The more children are taken needlessly from such homes, the more the system is overwhelmed -- and the more dangerous foster care becomes. Even in the best of times, there is far more abuse in foster care itself than is generally realized. During a foster-care panic, like the one under way now, agencies like DCF lower standards and overcrowd foster homes. In the just-settled Broward County lawsuit, a lawyer who regularly represents children said in a sworn affidavit that there is an "epidemic of child-on-child sexual abuse" in Broward foster homes -- a fact that makes the subsequent surrender to DCF in the form of a meaningless "settlement" all the more disturbing.

And this does not even consider the emotional devastation to children when they are taken not only from loving parents but from brothers, sisters, extended family, and friends. Few adults could cope with that, yet DCF routinely does it to children.

And it isn't just foster children who are less safe. The child-welfare system is arbitrary, capricious, and cruel. It routinely leaves some children in dangerous homes even as it takes other children from safe homes. That's to be expected when undertrained and overworked caseworkers are given impossible caseloads and forced to make life-and-death decisions. The more you overload the system, the more mistakes are made -- in both directions. And that's why when Illinois, Connecticut, and New York all took the same approach Kearney is taking now, total child-abuse deaths actually went up.

Kearney's deputy, Linda Radigan, has said that "no one saw this coming." But anyone could have seen it coming just by looking at the experience of other states. DCF either never did that or ignored all the evidence. It has also ignored the states that are bucking the family-bashing trend and making children safer.

Family preservation is smeared when the label is slapped onto any decision to leave any child in any home under any circumstances. It's been a very effective smear campaign, and Florida's most vulnerable children are paying the price.

Richard Wexler, Executive Director
National Coalition For Child Protection Reform
Alexandria, Virginia

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