Community should be open to children in need

Letters to the Editor
Published November 7, 2005

Re: Neighbors fight group home for kids , story, Thursday.

As I sat reading the paper this morning over coffee in my home in Oldsmar, I couldn't believe what I was reading about some of the community's response to the future group home for foster kids on Shore Drive. I was absolutely disgusted, to say the least.

As the youngest child in a family of seven, I grew up in a home that was open to helping those who were helpless. Our family took in foster children, a brother and sister who would have been forgotten and split up if it weren't for my parents' willingness to open our doors (and our hearts) to them. I believe it is that compassion and generosity that has helped me to become who and what I am today.

It is quite obvious from the reactions of the women interviewed for your story that this is really more about snobbishness than anything else. Should we be concerned for our children's safety? Yes, by all means! I have four growing boys myself. But for Claire Lopez to say, "They might steal. They might lie. You don't know," is absolutely absurd. Have her own daughters ever lied about anything? Has her son ever stolen anything, even a cookie when told not to?

But what really got to me was the statement by Hazel Heidemann. "How do we know if these kids have had proper inoculations? Can they just carry whatever disease or whatever through the neighborhoods?"

Ma'am, these aren't the feral dogs you read about in other recent Times stories. They are children. Hurting children. Children who are going through a terrible time in their lives and who need to know that someone out there has concern for them.

I guess my question for both of these women is this: Do you not realize that not too long ago, someone in your own family was a displaced citizen? Can you not trace your own family's history back to someone coming to America from someplace else? Ms. Lopez, your family came from somewhere in Latin America. Ms. Heidemann, yours came from Europe, I imagine. My own came from Ireland. When they did, there was great pestilence affecting that country. I'm glad that there was no one here waiting to turn them around, afraid that they might be carrying some "terrible disease" to the streets and corners of our country.

Where would you like these children to live? If not in our beloved town of Oldsmar, so close to a park and the fun that it offers or the great schools we have ... where? From your reactions, I suppose a less-affluent part of town would be better? Or maybe, as you imply, running with those feral dogs through the parks of North Pinellas?

God help us all if Oldsmar takes on your coldheartedness.

As for me, I say let the children come and let our community do what is right and accept them.

-- The Rev. Barry Sullivan, Oldsmar

Residents discount effect of positive environment

Re: Neighbors fight group home for kids , story, Thursday.

Just in time for the holidays comes this heartwarming story of some residents in Oldsmar who would like to prevent a few foster kids from living in their neighborhood. They have been assured by the Gift of Life organization that these boys will not be sex offenders or have criminal or violent histories. But that's not good enough for this bunch.

The quotes from the concerned parents would be almost laughable if they weren't so bigoted: "How do we know if these kids have had proper inoculations? Can they just carry whatever disease or whatever (the "whatever" was not identified) through the neighborhood?"

Or how about this one: "They might steal. They might lie. You don't know." Great reason to keep them out. We sure don't need any more disease- and whatever-carrying liars and thieves.

But did this woman ever consider that if these kids were able to live in a stable environment they might grow up to be productive citizens?

Why don't these people just say what they are really thinking: "These kids aren't like us, and, therefore, they are inferior and don't deserve a break in life?"

What an outstanding group of people. And I'll bet they consider themselves good citizens.

-- Nancy M. Frioud, Tarpon Springs

Comments display arrogance and ignorance

Re: Neighbors fight group home for kids , story, Thursday.

This article made me sick to my stomach. I am so glad that the ignorance and arrogance of this community was put into print. The comments made by these residents are proof that we no longer live in a country where we worry about those in our community. We worry about ourselves and take no responsibility for our selfish, shortsighted ideas. I have read more concern for stray animals in our community than that of children who, for circumstances beyond their control, are left displaced.

I wonder if these women read these same news reports that I read.

The majority of the teens who are running into trouble aren't reported as children of the foster care system. The kids that I read about run the gamut from poor (all races) to the very affluent (all races), from single-parent families to dual-parent families.

These women better start homeschooling because these 13- and 14-year-old foster boys are in our school systems, they shop at our malls, they hang out at our parks. One of your kids could actually have an open mind to the diversity of our culture and be friends with one of the boys. God help you, one of your daughters could marry one!

In this day and age of health and technology, I find it a real stretch for you to think that these kids who are probably funded by the Medicaid system aren't properly inoculated. Didn't your kids have to have shots before they entered various levels of school?

Shame on you, and shame on our community if they aren't as outraged by your attitude about these kids.

-- Charity Jones, Port Richey

Being a good neighbor creates them in return

Re: Neighbors fight group home for kids , story, Thursday.

How very sad that the neighbors on Oldsmar's Shore Drive are fighting a group home for foster children without even giving the boys a chance. Shame on you.

For more than 30 years, my family has lived next door to a group home for children. They have been good neighbors. Never once has a child done anything to cause us fear. They have ranged in age from very young to late teens. Before my children were grown, they played in my home, and my children played in theirs.

You are worried that the boys might cause trouble. Have you never once experienced a problem with "regular folks" in your neighborhood?

One would think that you live in a world where you expect everything to be easy without your having to do a thing to contribute. You have a responsibility to supervise and protect your family regardless of who lives in your neighborhood. You also have a responsibility to be a good neighbor yourself.

You are worried about immunizations? What makes you think that other children in the neighborhood have any better medical care?

You worry about property values? I bet someone in your neighborhood has a really messy yard or makes too much noise. Does that matter?

I suggest that you folks bake some cookies and go over to welcome the boys. Look them in the face, smile, call them by name and tell them that you are glad that they are there.

If you demonstrate to them that you are a good neighbor, they will probably respond very favorably.

-- Frances Wagar, Tallahassee

"Neighbors' the wrong word for opponents

Re: Neighbors fight group home for kids , story, Thursday.

The First Amendment gives these people a right to speak, but to call them "neighbors" was a gross misjudgment on the newspaper's part.

Because they are allowed to speak their minds (small though they are), it gives me the right to speak mine.

If they are as bigoted as they sound, I would have to imagine their children are just as flawed or possibly more so than the children whom they are prejudging. Who's to say the children of these "neighbors" shouldn't be taken from their homes because of the hatemongering and mental abuse to the children?

The children who will be living in that home should be shown kindness by "neighbors." How can these children grow into good adults if all the adults around them are like their parents?

These "neighbors" are creating their own environment of hate and distrust. I can honestly say that if that woman decides to picket the house against the kids, I will be there inviting them in and giving them the support they need to see adults that care about their future.

You have to believe the old adage, "What goes around, comes around." Hate breeds hate. Distrust breeds contempt.

Please keep the public informed of the actions of these "neighbors" so the caring side can show their support of these kids.

-- Cynthia Besio, New Port Richey