Suffer the Children
Regarding Michelle Dally Johnston's "The Clients," in the August 23 issue:
The timing of your article regarding the GAL program in Denver was eerie, since I had started to look into the availability of such a program just last week. I moved here approximately eight months ago from another state, and after getting settled in, I intended to find volunteer work involving children and their protection. In the state and county where I lived before, the GAL would ask the court (through the bar or legal aid society) to provide a "volunteer" investigator if the GAL felt he would not be able to interview the child, the parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, teachers, foster parents, etc., or to collect information that needed review, e.g., court documents filed by other attorneys on the case, copies of Social Services interviews, etc. I was one of those volunteer investigators.
I received training from the legal aid office along with dozens of other volunteers; we were screened and interviewed and, like so many GALs, received no compensation for any of our out-of-pocket expenses. It is my understanding that while some GALs were paid, many opted to work pro bono over paying bar association dues (they had a choice). I did my "legwork" at lunch or after work or on weekends; sometimes it was frustrating, because some Social Services caseworkers felt threatened by a GAL investigator who requested copies of interviews with an abused, neglected, hospitalized, abandoned or delinquent child. Other caseworkers knew that, unlike them, we were not influenced by budgetary pressures or public-image concerns, etc., and we could therefore help that child. Parents were wary until they learned that we were not paid workers. Children, already traumatized by abuse, neglect, the system or whatever, were distrustful and skittish of our motives until they found that they had rights and confidentiality.
My experiences with the children (and I represented dozens) were wonderful and painful and exhausting and time-consuming, and given the opportunity, I would do it again. My life's experiences prepared me for my investigations/interviews. My background at one time was not much different from that of the children or, later, their parents. My own children had a rough time early on; yet with direction, assistance and, most important, encouragement, I broke the pattern and am now able to give back.
Like the spotlighted attorney in your article, Allen Alderman, I have also had my losses/failures, but not to death, and not because I wasn't there. If Mr. Alderman thinks that two deaths (or so) in a ten-year period is an acceptable risk, then he is obviously not working in the best interests of the child. A child's best interests, last I checked, did not include lack of life.
Please continue to do stories on this vastly ignored commodity and wealth--the children. Maybe if enough kids read the stories, they'll learn to defend themselves from those who are there to protect them.
As a public-health pediatrician, I am compelled to comment on your recent cover stories. Having trained in Philadelphia and worked in other cities larger than Denver, I have always followed the investigative stories that a paper such as Westword pursues. The inherent dangers in the recent child-related articles are the extreme responses they might incite and the fact that fundamental issues may be ignored. Sweeping, broad generalizations are counterproductive.
Not all GALs perform their duties with monetary motivation. Not all pedophiles escape prison, rehabilitation and retribution. Not all county social workers are middle-aged, uncaring, overworked women with bad backs from carrying heavy charts and caseloads. Not all therapists or evaluators use controversial therapy or methodology. Not all children languish in temporary-shelter care while their parents drag their addiction-ridden bodies to civil court to argue with judges.
Child abuse happens. Children are hurt physically, sexually, emotionally and fatally every single day. Laws protecting these children, as well as adults, need periodic review and revision. There are wonderful people in all areas of child welfare in Denver who work harder than anyone I have known in other cities. As in any field, professionals whose work involves the diagnosis, evaluation, treatment or civil protection of such children need to maintain objectivity, credibility and accountability for their work.
Finally, there is no "industry" of such professionals who profit from the misery of the painful events of child abuse and neglect. Hysteria, paranoia and labels do not fix a faltering child-welfare system or benefit the children or families who are in trouble; they can only wound the integrity and determination of dedicated people who, contrary to what the public may now believe, work to protect children.
Andrew Sirotnak, M.D.
Denver Health and Hospitals
What's in a Name?
I found Michelle Dally Johnston's article on the Kempe Center ("Do You See What I See?" August 2) interesting and appalling. The fact that James Plunkett would allow his name and his children's names to be printed shows he doesn't feel his children have been put through enough hell. I question what kind of parent he really is and what kind of reporter would allow this.
Mr. Plunkett then wrote a letter thanking you for publishing his story. He continues to show in this letter how little compassion he has for his children. It seems all he is interested in doing is using your paper to destroy Mr. LaBute. I'm pleased Mr. Plunkett stated he is still being "accused and suspected." He should be, by his actions and the sound of his statements.
I have lost a lot of respect for your newspaper. True journalism tells all sides of a story. A respectable newspaper doesn't name innocent children!
Name withheld on request
The Moral of the Story
Regarding Ward Harkavy's "Let Us Pay," in the August 30 issue:
The article on Marilyn Hickey states, "though somewhat homophobic...she gets high marks from even her critics for her personal morals."
Excuse me? Would you write of a subject: "though moderately racist, she is an upstanding individual"? How is bigotry of any sort consistent with high marks for personal morals? Or does Westword view homo-hatred (phobias are anxiety disorders; bigotry is hatred, plain and simple) as a mere and minor quirk?
Think about what you write. It makes a difference.
Rockies and Roll
Regarding Michael Roberts's "KC (& the Sunshine Band) at the Bat," in the August 30 issue:
The Rockies are marketing to Generation X and to children, and they're largely ignoring the complaints of people--baby boomers, older baby boomers, people older than that--who want a more traditional approach to the game. My feeling about it is that they sell the game short; it's a tacit admission on their part that their own product, baseball, is boring. There are thousands of people who feel, as I do, that baseball is inherently interesting if you can only concentrate on it, but how can you concentrate when you're constantly being bombarded by artificial electronic stimulation both on their Jumbotron and emanating from their sound booth?
I've been complaining to them for three years, and I know a lot of other people, some of whom are season ticket-holders, are complaining, too. I'm not a season ticket-holder, and one of the reasons I'm not is because I'm not going to pay the amount of money that's required to be continually depressed and angered over what I consider a puerile marketing strategy.
Dead and Jerried
I feel I must finally respond to all the Deadheads' claims of Jerry Garcia's doing what he did for his "art." This is a pile of crap. Jerry Garcia did what he did for the same reason every musician does it--from the guy on the street corner playing for change to Michael Jackson: It's how they earn a living. Some do it better and make more than others, but they are all in it for the same reason.
The Dead have more merchandising, corporate tie-ins and more money being made than almost every other band, singer, actor, baseball player, basketball player, etc. They were in it for the money. No more, no less. They will still be in it for the money.
There is no art for art's sake. Never has been, never will be. The Deadheads need to grow up, wake up and realize this. Garcia's widow and kids won't want for anything because of them, because of their hard-earned money going for records, CDs, tapes, T-shirts, hats, buttons, shows, credit cards, etc.
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The Kinks said it best: It's the "Money Go 'Round."
This guy is Lynda Barry's "Poodle With a Mohawk--Nobody's going to call him Fifi anymore" poster boy. Did his mentors ever clue him in to live and let live? Instead, Michael Roberts holds his bloody hatchet dripping triumphantly over a freshly dead actual musician's body, one who had more real live mojo under his missing middle fingernail than MR has ever had in his entire white-boy miserable body.
I've just got this to say: I'd much rather wipe with a rusty chainsaw than choke on this guy's vicious scatological spew ever again.