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    Letters to the Editors

    Legislation would turn adoption law on its head

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2001


    I'll bet the author of the April 6 Times editorial Worthy adoption bill is not an adoptive parent. The comment that the bill provides additional protection for adoptive parents may be the biggest lie of the 2001 legislative session. In fact, the bill expands the grounds for challenging a completed adoption.

    Adoption law is being turned on its head. Instead of promoting adoptions and considering the best interests of the child, the new adoption bill goes to extraordinary lengths to promote the rights of non-supportive and even physically abusive biological fathers. Simply stated, the bill is an overreaction to the unfortunate "Baby Sam" case in Alabama.

    My wife and I experienced the roller-coaster adoption process, including the joy upon its completion. We cannot understand why the Times supports misguided legislation making the adoption process longer, more difficult and perhaps more rare.
    -- Michael P. Horan, St. Petersburg

    Adoption bill deserves a veto

    The Florida Association of Licensed Adoption Professionals, Florida Association of Licensed Adoption Agencies, Florida Association of Adoption Attorneys, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and numerous adoptive parents, birth-parents and adoptees all urge Gov. Jeb Bush to veto House Bill 141, a dramatic 104-page rewrite of the existing 11-page adoption code. While it has some good features, such as a 48-hour wait after birth before a consent in a newborn adoption may be signed, the bad in the bill far outweighs the good.

    This bill was drafted without the input or approval of adoption professionals in Florida. Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, the sponsor of the bill, claims it will decrease the number of disrupted adoptions in Florida. The Department of Children and Families reported more than 8,000 adoptions in Florida last year. Where are these disruptions, ask the adoption professionals.

    HB 141 will needlessly raise the costs and risk of adoption by shifting the existing burden on an unwed father to come forward and take affirmative steps to be identified and places that burden on the mother and potential adoptive parents to locate and notify him through an onerous, diligent search that requires contacting all relatives and by publications in multicounty newspapers.

    This new approach is contrary to existing U.S. Supreme Court cases as well as the national trend supported by President Bush to establish a father's registry similar to the Texas Registry, where a father seeking to establish parental rights can do so without having to rely on a birth-mother notifying him. Additionally, for any potential fathers who choose not to register, their rights may be terminated.

    HB 141 relegates adoptive parents to the status of foster parents who, unlike foster parents with the Department of Children and Families, bear the cost of the living and medical expenses of a child to be placed in their home plus the onerous burden of locating the birth-father through the new diligent search-and-publication standards; and if they fail to do so, he will be given up to two years after the adoption to set the final judgment of adoption aside.

    This new bill will require three hearings: venue, termination of parental rights and adoption. It applies to stepparent, grandparent and relative adoptions, thus needlessly raising the cost for even uncontested cases. If venue is filed in the wrong county, criminal sanctions will apply. HB 141 raises the costs and risk of all adoptions, and by doing so will significantly reduce the number of special-needs children placed through private adoption.

    Urge Gov. Bush to veto HB 141 by e-mailing him at Jeb@Jeb.org or fax him at (850) 487-0801.
    -- Jeanne T. Tate, vice president, Florida Association of Adoption Professionals, Tampa

    Children need firm discipline

    Re: Accused of abuse, father rolls the dice, April 5.

    I applaud this father for belting his 11-year-old disobedient son and for his courage to stand his ground in court to defend his actions. Bravo also to the jury for expressing good judgment in the not-guilty verdict. There is a distinct difference between belting a kid and brutally beating one.

    It is amazing to me that our laws compel law-enforcement people to arrest a parent for belting an out-of-control child but will then hold the parent responsible for the unlawful acts of the minor child.

    Where is our common sense? You do not try to "negotiate" with a toddler or a teen when he or she displays absolute defiance. For generations, parents have taken a belt to disobedient, defiant children without fear of being arrested. Children learned early that there would be painful repercussions for being disobedient. Our jails were not filled to overflowing nor did children take guns to school with the intention of killing schoolmates (and, yes, there were guns in our homes back then).

    Today, children threaten to call the police if their parents physically challenge them. They know the police will come and arrest the parent. Many parents are afraid of being arrested, and some are afraid of their own children.

    It is better to allow parents to take back control of their out-of-control children than to be faced with charging young children as adults when they commit horrible crimes.

    We reared four children -- two boys and two girls -- all with a firm hand. They grew up to be well-adjusted, law-abiding, honest, hard-working individuals. When they broke the rules, they were dealt with swiftly, firmly and consistently. They are now rearing their children in the same fashion.
    -- Estelle B. Chirby, Clearwater

    Let us see judges' records

    Pathetic programs for innocent victims and their families (programs of memorial services, nice words and little else) are especially sick in light of the fact that we continue to beg for crime by electing those who appoint soft judges. Any violent crime against an innocent person should be met with punishment that would cause potential perpetrators to reverse their steps -- not, as at present, to laugh.

    Instead of relying on a once-a-decade article by Reader's Digest to expose our tormenters, today's local editors could do all of us a great service by publishing often the case records of such judges, along with the names of those who appointed them, and the political party involved.

    Let us not forget to give praise to those legislators who champion bills favoring victims and freeing them from fear that their efforts to protect themselves and their property could result in further terrorism by "Big Brother" at the federal or state level.

    Bureaucrats do not owe us health, education, welfare or entertainment, but they do owe us -- abundantly -- justice and protection. In these two areas, they are woefully weak.
    -- Lee Greg Kent, Spring Hill

    Postal cutback will be little noticed

    Re: Postal Service will study ending Saturday service, April 4.

    It appears that even with the rate increase that was instituted recently, the Postal Service is once again in a dire financial condition.

    Billions of dollars have been spent in an effort to update the sorting of mail, and yet we find ourselves standing in lines of ever increasing length while somnambulant postal clerks saunter about and vanish into the dreaded "workroom floor" areas that are adjacent to postal lobbies. Once in these areas the clerks may never be seen again. At least not while you or I are still willing to wait for their return to their work station.

    Now it appears that the letter carrier may no longer be seen on his appointed rounds on the weekends. I will admit that 15 years ago that thought would have bothered me -- but not now. The Postal Service is fast (a word unknown to postal management) becoming an institution that can no longer compete with instant electronic communications and vastly superior private competitors.

    So go ahead. Eliminate Saturday deliveries. Cut the carrier craft by 20 percent and use the resultant savings to forestall further rate increases.

    Many of us won't even care or notice your absence on the weekends. That is how low the Postal Service has sunk in the view of many Americans. So sad but so true.
    -- William G. Hoelzle, Largo

    Postal Service needs better service

    Re: Postal Service will study ending Saturday service.

    When you ship anything with UPS or Fed Ex, you can be sure it will be delivered in a timely manner.

    Four years ago, a priority-mail envelope was sent to me from Florida to Pennsylvania. I have not received it yet. I asked about it and was told there was no way to trace it.

    I put two letters in the mail at the same time to a town 100 miles away. One letter arrived at its destination; the other never did. Another letter didn't even survive a 30-mile trip.

    I use UPS and Fed Ex for everything I can, along with many other people. If the post office doesn't improve its service, it will continue to lose customers.
    -- William Chapman, Hernando

    Extend runoffs to presidential races

    Re: Don't repeal runoff primary, March 31.

    Thank you for your very excellent editorial exposing the folly of repealing the runoff primary in Florida elections.

    Proponents of this ill-conceived measure cite poor voter participation and the expense. While some voters may not believe it worth the trouble, that does not mean that the rest of us should be denied the right to make a choice between two candidates, one of them quite often a representative of special interests who is in the second primary only because the vote for better candidates was divided among others.

    As far as the expense is concerned, if that is such a big concern we could save a great deal more by doing away with elections altogether. That would be ridiculous, of course, but so is the idea to abridge voter rights in order to save a few dollars.

    Rather than eliminating runoffs, we should extend them to presidential elections in any state where no candidate received a majority of the vote. This would eliminate having a third party candidate decide the outcome, as happened in Florida in the last election. Of course the Republicans would not be too happy with that, in this instance, since in all likelihood we would not now be saddled with a president promoting big tax cuts for the wealthy -- including himself -- and emasculating our environmental and land-use regulations.
    -- Sydney K. Potter, Tampa

    Fasano is helping consumers

    Re: Fasano slips consumers a plum, April 3.

    This story reported that Rep. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey introduced an amendment to a bill in the Florida Legislature that would limit the amount private utilities could charge customers for rate case expenses.

    I wish to thank Rep. Fasano for bringing to light an abuse by private utilities. I hope other legislators will become cognizant of the abuses by private utilities of a system that is supposed to protect the consumers from these state-created monopolies.

    I believe that the customers of private utilities should be letting their legislators know what they think about the abuses to the public that are going on daily with the current laws regulating these state-created monopolies. What Rep. Fasano started should only be the beginning to get this situation under control.
    -- Edward Wood, New Port Richey

    Share your opinions

    Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by e-mail to letters@sptimes.com or by fax to (727) 893-8675.

    They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length.

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