Your article is also critical of a $600 million plan to bring renewable supplies to the county through conjunctive use of surface and groundwater. This is a long-term plan to bring an additional 60,000 acre-feet of supply into the county and to eliminate long-term depletions in the groundwater. The plan and its funding would be implemented over perhaps a fifty-year period, and costs would be shared among as many as 235,000 taps. This level of investment is not overly burdensome when compared to the investment made for water supply by any of the major municipal suppliers.

Patrick F. Mulhern

Home Run
This letter is in response to the articles by Michelle Dally Johnston in the February 14 issue. The author did a remarkable job of addressing several issues that are critical to children, especially children in foster care. In "Home Again, Home Again," she demonstrated that the major flaws in the system lie in the foundation upon which it is built more so than with the specific agencies or people charged with interpreting and utilizing it. In "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," she reminded us that confidentiality is something to be respected, not hidden behind.

Like so many others, there was a time when I viewed the role of foster parents to be much like that of a babysitter. Gradually, I began to realize that the original perceptions of my role could not have been further from the truth. Simple decisions became major ordeals, and every day brought at least one new challenge I was sure I couldn't meet. In retrospect, I am sure that without the support and accessibility of my workers, I would have quit. Instead, I evolved. In addition to providing me with a strong skill base, the more than 500 hours of training (including laboratory activities) enlightened me to the plight of foster parents everywhere. The laws and policies governing the foster-care system basically require that we be given the responsibilities of parenting without enough authority to do so. The public must remember that foster parents volunteer to bring the children of strangers into their homes, and by doing so, they are often placing themselves (and their families) at risk.

Recognizing the need for change, the Fostering Families Coalition was established. Together with our local foster parent association, the coalition has presented several of our concerns and ideas to the administration in Adams County. In my capacity as a foster parent and director of the coalition, I have been called upon to play many different roles: advisor, counselor, sounding board, facilitator, diplomat, mentor, teacher, nurse and friend, to name a few. But perhaps the most important yet difficult role of all is the one I play today: an advocate.

Crystal Green

Congratulations to Michelle Dally Johnston. I cannot express how on-target she is in identifying and reporting the tragic problems with the social services system and how it affects children in care.

Johnston's article touches on some of the retaliation I endured in my efforts to advocate for better decision-making concerning abused and neglected children. The charges against me were completely dismissed on all counts. As for the state's child-abuse registry, one allegation was expunged, and I have requested a hearing before an administrative law judge to conclude the rest. The courts do not put you on the registry; social services does--and the director of the registry bases his decision on the information social services gives him. They write down whatever they want and send it to the director; your name goes on, and you have no input. Due process was never in their vocabulary. And without that, how just are they?

Society needs to become more aware of the system and the fact that there is virtually no accountability when it comes to social services officials and their decision-making. Who do they help? Who do they destroy, and why? I lost two children I hoped to adopt, as well as over $30,000 in legal fees, because of their non-accountability. Citizens need to know and demand answers.

Lynette Newton
Kimball, Nebraska

Many thanks for Michelle Johnston's articles, which are the best I've seen about the pain children in the child-welfare system endure.

A few follow-up notes: Social workers quoted in the story cite what they consider "cultural bias" when foster parents advocate on behalf of a child. Yet most foster parents' advocacy has nothing to do with whether a child's family has money. The child can live in a tent or a car, as long as he or she is fed, kept warm, loved and protected. Too often, these things are not offered by biological parents, whose wells of need are too deep for them to ever care for themselves, much less their children.

Unfortunately, retaliation against foster parents happens, and often. I hear of at least three to five new incidents each week from foster parents in this state. Until I became witness to the Newton retaliation, I did not believe that families were falsely accused. I continue to be amazed at the power wielded by counties. They are accountable to no one.

Until we stop rewarding poor practice with funding, children's pain will continue. Taxpayers need to insist on accountability for their dollars spent.

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