- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Foster children and homosexual families

Commentary columnist Armstrong Williams is right. Adoption law ought not to be about cultural statements in general or gay rights in specific; it ought to be about the best interests of children ("Adoption agitation in whose interest?" March 18). Unfortunately, the "best" interests of children are not clearly defined, and parties representing different values often conflict while children languish in foster care.
We have what should be shocking information about the risks children face in foster care. Many children are re-abused, molested and otherwise victimized in foster care after being removed from reportedly dangerous families. Children arrive in the system with a high incidence of acute and chronic medical conditions, yet they often do not receive timely or adequate medical services.
In some states, officials estimate that 75 percent of youths in the criminal justice system were once in foster care. A disproportionate percentage of those who "graduate" from the system experience mental illness, drug and/or alcohol dependence, poverty and homelessness. Fewer than 60 percent of them ever graduate from high school, and fewer than 5 percent ever graduate from college. How can anyone claim that these outcomes are somehow preferable to the perceived and unsubstantiated "risks" of placing children with gay and lesbian families?
Mr. Williams' premise becomes even more difficult to support when one considers that the vast majority of these children are in care because of abuse and neglect by heterosexual, often married, parents.
We can argue about why we do not have enough homes for the children who need them. We can continue to argue the merits of which kinds of homes are "best," but it is certain that adults who are coming forward to offer permanence, commitment and love can answer the needs of the children in foster care today.
If some Americans do not like the lifestyles of some of these adults, they are entitled to feel that way. They are not entitled, however, to condemn children to remaining in foster care one minute longer than is necessary, because that certainly is not in the best interests of the children.
Research studies often are cited to suggest that having homosexual parents somehow makes children more likely to become homosexual. To my knowledge and according to experts in the field there is no significant research indicating that this is true. Commentators such as Mr. Williams also link such inaccurate claims to other scary data about homosexuals. Mr. Williams, for instance, cites the high incidence of suicide among homosexual teen-agers. In doing so, he makes things that are unrelated appear to be somehow related.
In America, we have more than 100,000 children in need of permanent homes. We do not have enough parents coming forward to adopt these children. Each year, fewer than half of the children eligible for adoption are placed in adoptive homes. The needs of foster children have intersected with gay and lesbian issues, but fundamentally, responding to the needs of foster children is not about promoting any other agenda. These children have a desperate need for nurturing, guidance, affection and permanence.
The point that is missed in all of this political posturing is that a generation of American children is being sacrificed to the ignorance and superficiality of "experts" such as Mr. Williams. While he certainly advances a position, he fails to provide an answer. For children in foster care, who cannot return to their families of origin, the evidence suggests that having a family is preferable to not having one. To suggest otherwise is to ignore what Mr. Williams claims to embrace the best interests of the children.

PETER GIBBS
Director
Center for Adoption Research
University of Massachusetts
Worcester, Mass.

NEA plays politics

The National Education Association's (NEA's) definition of "political activity" is like a slinky as broad or narrow as the union wants it to be.
An NEA representative was quoted recently in your newspaper as saying: "NEA does not use dues dollars for political activity. Any money spent on politics is made of voluntary contributions, raised through NEA's Fund for Children and Public Education" ("NEA plays politics illegally, foe says," March 24).
This simply is not true.
For now, the NEA wants to define "political activity" as narrowly as possible: handing hard cash to candidates.
It does not want to include contributions to support or oppose state initiatives, election staff hired to work campaigns, mailings and newsletters that tell members how to vote, investment in voter lists, get-out-the-vote drives, election-related polls, organization of volunteers, funding and management of phone banks, in-kind contributions on behalf of candidates, training of candidates, billboard rentals commenting on candidates, political fund-raising drives and the overhead operation of political action committees.
NEA officials engage in all of those activities, and they use mandatory collective bargaining dues to pay for them. The latest claims are just another example of the NEA's attempts to hide the true extent of its politicking from the public, from authorities and from its members.

JAMI LUND
Research analyst
Evergreen Freedom Foundation
Olympia, Wash.

Arafat is the problem, not the solution

Paul Greenberg's April 1 Commentary column, "Witnessing the war process," correctly exposes the confusion of Israel's leaders. However, the sooner Israel realizes that Yasser Arafat is not interested in peace and will not stop the terror, the sooner a solution can be found.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon states that negotiations for peace cannot begin until the attacks have ended. That strategy fails because it validates Mr. Arafat as part of the solution. Mr. Arafat is the problem. He's a terrorist, and no one should negotiate with him. To fight terrorism, Israel must disorganize the terrorist network from the top. It must take out Mr. Arafat. Once the terrorist network is without a leader, it will become splintered and disorganized. The suicide attempts may not stop, but they will be easier to defend against as the perpetrators become less organized and the Israelis more vigilant.
The U.S. government, unfortunately, has weakened Israel's position by equating Israel's military responses against a lesser opponent with the term "cycle of violence." Is it a "cycle of violence" when we blast our terrorist opponent in Afghanistan with overwhelming force? On the contrary; we should fully support a parallel strategy for Israel to deal with its terrorists.
With one eye on Iraq, we may have to abandon our goal of stability in the Middle East should Israel mount the full-scale operation necessary to protect itself. The United States is big enough and tough enough to defeat Iraq without help from our coalition partners, if need be. I would wager that even with a destabilized region, if we attempted to oust Saddam Hussein, other Arab states would fall in line, as they did when we went into Afghanistan. They may not like us, but they respect our power and our willingness to use it. It's time for us to do what's right and throw our full support behind Israel's right to self-defense.

BRIAN PENN
Rockville


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