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Entries from blogs tagged with “Kansas politics”

Why Obama Will Never Win

Obama may look like the winning horse leading the pack at the beginning of this year's Presidential race, but he won't be able to keep up the pace all the way to the finish line. He isn't seasoned. He isn't experienced.

Neither he or Edwards have the lineage behind them that would be required to go the distance.

Still, Obama is working the track and has picked his way from the back of the pack and moved into a key position to make a run for the final stretch. It hasn't been an easy task. He has been hit by dirt and mud as much as any of his opponents. He seems to be gaining speed. He is a full length ahead of Edwards and Edwards is a nose in front of Clinton.

I am glad I have my bet on Clinton though. She is saving herself for the finish line. She has great stamina, loves to be pushed for a grand finish and is well seasoned and confident. She stands head and shoulders above the competition because of her previous experiences in other races such as these - some of which she watched from the sidelines.

Obama has blinders on; he won't be able to see the filly passing him on the inside track until he begins to taste the dust that is stirred up as she leaves him far behind.

And she hasn't even begun to work up a lather.

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20,000 Kansas poor children are without health insurance.

President Bush gave us a New Years present with the signing of the SCHIP legislation (Health Wave in Kansas). This legislation extended government subsidized health insurance for children in families with limited income through March 2009. Without this extension Kansas would have serious problems maintaining the Health Wave program. President Bush twice vetoed this legislation because Congress, controlled by Democrats, wanted to extend the program to more children. But that is not the story here.Kansas Action for Children reports that there are 20,000 children living below the poverty line without health insurance (http://www.kac.org/ftp/File/Publications/KC_datanotes2007.pdf). This is 39% of Kansas children without health insurance.A White House statement dated December 19, 2007 praised Congress for passing SCHIP legislation that President Bush could sign. This statement said that this is an "important program for America's low income children." There seems to be a contradiction here. What was debated was not health insurance for children living in families below the federal poverty level. Medicaid is the health insurance program for these children. SCHIP is for children in families above the poverty line. The debate was where to draw the line for eligibility. Should it be at 150% of poverty, 185% of poverty, 200% of poverty or higher?Why isn't Medicaid working for the 20,000 Kansas uninsured children living in poor families? There are many answers. For one, consider a single mother with one child living on less than $13,690 a year. That is the current poverty line for this family ($17,170 if she has 2 children). Incidentally, the US Census reports that more poor children live in married couple families but their challenges are similar. So mom needs to get to her job (81% of women heading poor households work according to the US Census), keep food on the table, take care of child care and, by the way, get to the SRS office and take care of Medicaid applications and requirements. This includes the issue of proving that you are a US Citizen. When did we last see those birth certificates?She needs help. More attention, both individually and collectively, needs to be given to these families and you can help.1.Statewide advocacy organizations need to focus on getting children in poor families enrolled in Medicaid.2.Local social service organizations need to advocate for these families and remove whatever barriers exist to Medicaid enrollment. 3.What about a house to house survey in poor neighborhoods that identifies poor families and provides assistance with enrolling in Medicaid?4.Friends and neighbors can volunteer to help enroll poor families5.Friends and neighbors can question local social service providers on their efforts to help poor families enroll in Medicaid or Health Wave.By the way, think about the economic benefit to the local community if the medical expenses of all poor families were covered by Medicaid rather than the local community through donations to organizations like Health Care Access.

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Frogmore Stew

Except for sub freezing temperatures outside, 25 co-workers and their families might feel they are in South Carolina rather than gathered in rural Douglas County on New Years Day.What created the warm southern feeling on a cold Kansas day? Frogmore Stew.Named for Frogmore, the mailing address for the residents of St. Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina, the stew is a combination of ingredients readily available on this historical island. While their neighbors in the States might have a BBQ, St. Helena residents add shrimp, potatoes, corn, and spicy bratwurst together in a pot. Our first try at the Low Country specialty began with a round of home brewed beer. Created by our favorite brew master and co-worker, it was dark, smooth, and served at room temperature. While enjoying our ale, we heated water and seasoning packets in a big (very big) pan over a propane burner. While new potatoes are the best choice, we opted for a large, firm baking potatoes cut in large pieces and dropped in the pot after the water was hot. Following potatoes, in went the precooked and quartered hot and mild brats. Almost the same time frozen corn on the cob slid in. Setting the table consisted of spreading plastic and newspapers over the entire surface. In addition, we added shrimp sauce, homemade bread and butter, hot sauces to taste, and many napkins.When the shrimp went in the pot, everyone gathered around ready to eat. Five minutes later, two people carried the heavy hot pot outside and poured the hot liquid through a strainer held by the third. Finally, they dumped the steaming ingredients in the middle of the table.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Jan/01/Copy_of_DSC00056.JPGFrogmore Stew6 quarts water
¾ cup Old Bay Seasoning
2 pounds new red potatoes
2 pounds hot smoked sausage links, cut into 2 inch pieces
12 ears corn, husked and quartered
4 pounds large fresh shrimp, unpeeled
Bring water & seasoning to a boil in large stockpot.
Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Add sausage and cook for five minutes more. Add corn and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink, about five minutes. Drain immediately and serve. Serves 12 depending on appetites.

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WIC participation helps prevent obesity.

An Associated Press article from Thursday December 27 brought attention to the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. The news was that 3 stores that specialized in serving WIC participants were going out of business. More than 30 people commented on the article in the Lawrence Journal World. It is clear from the comments that the program and its benefits are not well understood including the fact that there are many other stories that supply WIC products. Let's change the headline Children who participate in the WIC program at age 4 are at significantly lower risk of being overweight. This is according to a RAND Corporation study of 2004 (Rand Working Paper 172). This wasn't reported yesterday so it is not "real" news. Previous research has found that WIC reduces the risk of infant mortality, low birth weight and reduces the cost of maternal and neonatal care. While not news, many people do not know of these substantial benefits. WIC basics WIC is a program that was originally intended to prevent hunger by providing food assistance to pregnant, postpartum and lactating women. This is an overly simple description of the program. Complex rules and regulations make a concise description of who is eligible and what they receive impossible. To check out the details go to http://www.kdheks.gov/nws-wic/wic_nutrition_prog.htm. The Department of Health and Environment administers the program in Kansas under regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture that Congress charged with developing the program.The rules are not complex because KDHE or USDOA are large government bureaucracies. They certainly are. The rules are complex because we don't trust poor people to make good decisions. We don't want people that are not really poor to benefit and we don't want people buying caviar when they are suppose to buy milk. Of course some people make bad decisions but our paranoia probably adds more cost to program administration than fraud would. The Rand studyThe findings of the Rand study that children who participate in the WIC program are at reduced risk of being overweight are quite impressive. Childhood obesity is a problem with major future health care consequences. A program that reduces the likelihood of obesity may significantly reduce future health care costs. We already know that WIC participation reduces maternal and neonatal care costs. Are WICs benefits due to the food that the family receives or the nutrition education they receive? The study couldn't determine that. It is likely that it is some of each. Were the children in the study different in some way that would explain the results? The study found that the WIC children were less well off than others. In other words those most in need were participating in the program.This study demonstrates that WIC is a program that reaches children and families who need it and produces substantial benefits. We should all be supporters.Reaching out to poor women and childrenA disturbing finding in the RAND study is that only 38% of eligible children between ages one and four use WIC. More than twice as many poor children could be receiving these benefits and are not. Data for Kansas or Douglas county are not available but it is likely that there are local women and children who could benefit from the program but are not participating.If you know a struggling mother with young children, ask if they know about WIC. Volunteer to help determine if they are eligible. The KDHE website is useful for that and it identifies Gayle Sherman of the Lawrence Douglas County Health Department as the local contact.

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Benazir Bhutto

The stark news ricocheted around the world today - Benazir Bhutto assassinated. Newspaper headlines will try to summarize the tragedy in tomorrow's editions and many columns will be written about her life and the impact of her death on the world's political scene. How can we ever hope to capture the life and courage of the first woman to become head of Government in an Islamic State? In the US, and even Ireland and the United Kingdom, we take it for granted that woman have the right to hold the highest offices in the land. Such rights are not automatic for women in Islamic countries. The achievements of Benezir Bhutto took the kind of courage that goes beyond words, and only those closest to her will know what it cost.She knew the risks she was taking as she tried to return to Goverment. She was willing to pay the price that sadly ended in her death today. Her husband has lost his wife, her children a mother - and women all over the world have lost a living symbol of the strength and courage of the feminine spirit.

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Freedom Machine

Married less than two months, it was the summer of 1966 when we drove to a nearby state lake for our first overnight campout. We had an old army tent and plenty of food and beer. We slept on the ground. To those humble, early marriage beginnings, we added two children and various types of outdoor sleeping accommodations. Our family enjoyed freedom of open spaces, solitude, beautiful scenery and relaxing around a fire. Several years ago, our children long gone and retirement at hand, we began thinking about a recreational vehicle. In the past, we traveled to one place. We now plan longer road trips. We did not want to give up our independence in overnight accommodations, but needed something suitable for our age.We were not alone in our wish to own a RV. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) states more baby boomers own RVs than any other age group. Although the purchase of new vehicles will slip somewhat in 2008 because of higher gas prices, projections indicate sales will still be the fifth highest in 30 years.Our search for an RV fitting our lifestyle started at the yearly early January Kansas City Sports Show in Bartle Hall. Even though a new RV would not fit our budget, we walked through the units on display to determine our preferences. We wanted something small enough to park anywhere and self-contained so we could stop for the night without a reservation. Finally deciding on a small van conversion with gas mileage comparable to popular SUVs, we began looking for a used unit.Newspaper want ads and online sales sites were excellent sources, but good deals moved fast. I did not hesitate to call or email questions. Without fail, owners were anxious to share information. Six months later, we purchased a five-year-old 17-foot conversion van found on an Internet-listing site. It had 17,000 miles on the speedometer and cost less than half of a new model. We picked it up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.It is everything we hoped. You might see us tailgating at football games or parked on Mass street in Lawrence. We have been to Maine, states in the Midwest and especially enjoy two-day trips right here in Kansas. We are planning an Alaska trip a year from this summer. We feel as secure parking in a large chain store parking lot (boon docking) as a remote hilltop. We use it year round. We call it our Freedom Machine.

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Just about …. and more

A few years ago, I took my husband to the Tate Art Gallery in St. Ives, Cornwall. The building is pretty impressive. It overlooks the sea, and catches the light of the sun as it travels around the Bay.We arrived early and found various piles of dust and dirt as we moved up the stairs."Wouldn't you think they would have cleared that up before the place opened," I remarked.We arrived on the first floor and along the side of the wall in one of the galleries was another enormous pile of dust and dirt."What's all that dirt doing lying around here?" I asked the attendant."That's not dirt," she said with a sniff. "That's part of the exhibition."She directed me to the details of the artist near the pile of .... art.It didn't quite end there. In another room our eyes were assaulted by piles of rotten carrots placed strategically on the black tiles of what looked like a large checkers' board; the white tiles were untarnished by the putrid vegetables. The "work" was titled something like "Desperation."I haven't quite looked at carrots in the same way again.The "mother" Gallery, the Tate (Modern) in London, has now found a creative way to get rid of the dirt piles and carrots. A large crack, with a title, has appeared in one of the gallery floors. You would be forgiven for thinking it might be called "Cracked," or "Art is not all it's cracked up to be," but it isn't. It's titled "Shibboleth," and it's supposed to symbolize racial and class divisions. Apparently it's getting great reviews. I know I'm probably missing the point somewhere along the line, so maybe I need to be enligtened. When do cracks and piles of dirt turn into pieces of art? I've noticed several cracks in my garage floor today as well as piles of dirty salty grime (leftovers from last week's ice,) and I'm now looking for a suitable title for a possible masterpiece. I know I might have to do some rearranging to get the full artistic effect but I'll give it a try. How will I know if it's art? I wonder if I need to get a licence from the City in order to charge a fee? Any ideas about what I should call it, and what it might represent?

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In-Box or Mailbox

The New York Time published an article Sunday, December 16, by Phyllis Korkki entitled Still Choosing the Mailbox Over the In-Box.In the article Ms Korkki noted that today 275 million first-class cards and letters are expected to be mailed. From Thanksgiving to Christmas the USPS estimates 20 billion cards, letters, packages and other pieces of mail will be handled.Korkki goes on to say many thought the Internet would be the beginning of the end of the USPS. Instead, the Internet, especially the online shopping aspect, has created the need for hard copy as well as a service to ship the packages. Consequently, since 2001, the first class volume of mail has remained fairly steady.Finally, Korkki says,"...although email is now a permanent part of the communication landscape, the old-fashioned letter is far from dead...."I agree. It is a great feeling to open my mailbox and find a letter from family or friends. I can reread it as often as I like and save it for reference later when I return the favor. And, sometimes the short three sentence notes are meaningful. My grand kids love to receive a note about something significant in their lives.What do you think. Do you still choose the mailbox over the in-box?

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Anatomy of an Ice Storm

It is Monday evening and a major ice storm forecast looms. My backup front wheel drive 1987 model car is ready for my ninety mile route. With studded snow tires in front, it is better than four-wheel drive on ice.Tuesday morning it is raining steadily. The temperature lingers at freezing. I am not sure I have seen an ice storm begin with so much water run off. By noon it is running over the low water bridge on Deer Creek. Slowly the temperature drops and ice begins to accumulate on trees, fences and electrical wires. Trees bend more and more under the weight. Lines must be going down as the radio reports lost electricity.Low night temperatures and a thick coating of ice give way Wednesday morning to limbs, mainly Elm, lying under trees. Several times I hear a sharp crack and see a limb go down. Hardy cedar tree limbs simply bend to make a tent of ice forming a house underneath for rabbits and quail. Pines bend but hold. Oaks with leaves still attached have an extra burden. I saw one large branch loose the battle. With pastures frozen over, cattle stand at gates waiting for a bale of last summer's hay. Geese honk as they follow the Wakarusa Valley. Are they thinking of turning south? I would not blame them.I had company on the roads. Douglas County, Clinton and Kanwaka townships are busy blading and throwing sand. I wonder if they have been out all night as many roads and all bridges and steep hills are treated. A rancher with a big bale heads for the pasture. Along with me, brown, yellow and white delivery trucks bring holiday orders. It seems everyone else smartly stays home.Thursday dawns beautiful. There is no other word to describe the ice covered world under a clear sky and sunshine. Branches encased in ice radiated like stars or prism-like spectrum of colors. Ice on metal mailboxes melts from the inside out. A drive under a tree results in a barrage of ice falling like rain. Squirrels and turkeys, run about excited to feel the warmth on their backs. As the sun warms, steam rises. Birds, especially finches and sparrows fluttered in cedar branches. Hawks use warm updrafts from the melted fields to soar low looking for prey. Cattle spread out over the same fields grazing contently.Three days, the ice storm is history. In our area, most have electricity. Trees survive although some still bend as ice clings on northern exposures.What's next? Snow.

December 2007
Click on picture for pictures of the ice storm.
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Conflict

In a past life I was a prosecuting attorney in Western Kansas for 10 years. The AG is the chief law enforcement officer for Kansas and prosecutors all over the state look to his office for assistance in the form of advise and sometimes staff. KBI reports to the Ag and aides local law enforcement in complicated cases, One of the AG's roles is prosecuting cases where there would be local conflict between the prosecutor and law enforcement or officials in the community. The AG prosecutes cases where local officials or state official for that matter have engaged in misconduct. The KBI assists in these investigations and reports to the AG. Under the current circumstances there are allegations of serious criminal actions on the part of the AG. These are only allegations but they must be investigated. If Kline's Special Prosecutor request KBI assistance in the Morrision investigation then KBI officers who report to the Special Prosecutor will also be reporting to the director of the KBI. The director has a working relationship with Morrison and meets with him frequently in the course of his duties. There are allegations that Morrison attempted to get information about a Kline case by using an insider, Carter. TheI director of the KBI might want a witness at any meeting he has with Morrison because the it may appear that Morrison may try to use his position to gain inside information from the KBI director. It is doubtful that Morrison would do this, but there is the potential and the appearance that this could occur. The relationship between Morrison and the KBI director and the KBI is by its nature dependent and trust and that trust now must be under serious stain.

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The Christmas Card

It's a beautiful, fragile world out there this morning. I nearly fell flat on my back as I stepped out in the dark to fetch the paper. It lay about halfway down the incline of our driveway, so, not wanting to break any vital bones with half my family out of town this week, I practically crawled the rest of the way on all fours while the rain pelted me.Even so, I couldn't help admiring the way all the trees down the block look like they're outlined in crystal. It seems somehow appropraite this time of year.Yesterday evening, my sister-in-law called to say my nephew's Christmas program had been postponed again because of the icy weather. I was afraid he'd be terribly disappointed after he's so looked forward to it. It's so hard to wait when you're six years old! But no, she said. He's okay as long as they do eventually have it.And so we're all safe inside . Yesterday, I addressed envelopes until my hand ached, and today I'll probably do thirty more...A Christmas CardTossed into the postman's sack Along with catalogues and bills,He'll carry me from block to blockOr wind along the country hills.Across two thousand miles, I'll come,To where the winter's warm and dry,Or maybe simply down the street, Delivered while the snowflakes fly.A piece of light from every star Is carried to you here in me,A very simple gift that can'tBe wrapped beneath your Christmas tree.A note of joy from every songThat I've heard sung this time of year,The smell of cinnamon and cloves, I have it all gathered up hereInto just another Christmas card To wish a Merry Christmas where you are.

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Governor’s Child Abuse Task Force-Final Part

Governor's Child Abuse Task Force-Final RecommendationsRecommendations:3. The initial review and response to all intakes must include clear policies and procedures for social workers to follow.4. The improvement of the investigative and interview stage of child abuse and neglect cases is needed by requiring specific investigative and interview skills for all Child Protective Services (CPS) social workers and by developing and enhancing accredited Children's Advocacy Centers (CAC) and Multidisciplinary Teams (MDT).5. Regular and on-going training must be mandated for all SRS staff who work in child protective services.These are the final recommendations of the Governor's Task Force. I don't think that there is any debate on recommendations 3 and 5. Training and revised policies and procedures almost always follow unfortunate results and revisiting what is done in these areas is always a good idea.Recommendation 4 deserves some comment and clarification. Special expertise is needed to determine what is being said. I think that this is a 3 part recommendation.1)Police or social workers? One of the ongoing debates in child protective services is whether social workers are the best people to be investigating child abuse or neglect. A bad result of an investigation frequently is followed with a recommendation to have police take over CPS. Police do have special expertise in investigating if a crime has been committed. However, not all child abuse or neglect situations are crimes. For example, judging when neglect requires state intervention is not an investigation of a crime. In addition, a previous post mentioned the large percentage of reports that are investigated where the report is for the non-abuse neglect situation of a child being without proper control. I think that few police would welcome the added responsibility of responding to these concerns. There is evidence that a joint investigation of child abuse situations by police and social workers is effective. Cross, Finkelhor & Ormrod (2005) found, among other things, that police involvement may promote CPS effectiveness and should be coordinated in every community. A close working relationship between CPS and the police is an essential ingredient in the community's response to child abuse and neglect. The police and social workers who testified at the Task Force meetings agreed with this assessment.There is another aspect to the collaboration between police and CPS staff. It is not uncommon for social workers to be asked to investigate a very dangerous situation. CPS staff are sometimes asked to neighborhoods or housing units that few of us would venture near. These staff need and deserve all of the protections available.2)Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs). Another part of this recommendation is developing and enhancing multidisciplinary teams. MDTs bring the professionals together that are needed to determine what needs to be done in a particular situation. Child abuse and neglect situations are frequently very complex. For example, a CPS worker might be confronted with a mother neglecting her children and diagnosed as developmental delayed and mentally ill. She may also be alcohol or drug dependent. Expecting a CPS worker or a police officer to have expertise in all of these areas is unrealistic. Professionals for substance abuse, developmental disabilities, and mental health are also needed. Jones, Cross, Walsh & Simone (2005) conclude that MDTs can improve investigation and case outcomes. This was widely agreed to by those people who testified at the Task Force meetings who had experience with MDTs. Every community should have MDTs as part of their child abuse and neglect response.3)Children's Advocacy Centers (CAC). Developing and enhancing CACs is the third part of this Task Force recommendation. According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC), Child Advocacy Centers are non-profit agencies designed to coordinate multidisciplinary investigations of child abuse in a child-friendly environment. CACs were begun in response to the complexity of investigations of child sexual abuse. Victims of sexual abuse can easily experience additional trauma by repeated interviews of their experiences. Police, county attorneys, social workers all need the information but they don't all need to interview the victim. In addition, if the interview is not done well, the trauma can be exasperated.Children's Advocacy Centers can be effective in coordinating investigations, conducting forensic interviews and referring children for mental health services. One of the interesting aspects of this recommendation is that it was part of Governor Sebelius' original charge to the Task Force. In the press release announcing the appointment of the Task Force (March 8, 2007), she proposed the creation of child advocacy centers and devoted $1 million in her budget to begin establishing them around the state. Several CACs already existed so this is really an expansion.I do think that it is curious that Governor Sebelius proposed this solution before the Task Force had an opportunity to access the problem. So of course the Task Force complied. Please understand I have nothing against children's advocacy centers. I just think that the solution should have come from the committee. In addition, the problem in the Wichita case was not sexual abuse for which CACs were designed and have demonstrated expertise. Given the range of recommendations in the Task Force Report and the state legislature's propensity to avoid spending money it is going to be difficult to fund all of the Task Force recommendations. Calling for funding of an expensive solution to a different problem than what was the situation in Wichita may not be the best solution.Stay tuned to see what happens in the next legislative session.

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A Lesson in Time

I emailed my daughter for her permission to post this video. I thought it unfair that she did not know she was being taped. As a matter of fact, I did not realize the background conversation when I made this little poor quality video of our youngest grandson discovering the Christmas tree. When I previewed it, I decided both were worth preserving. Thank you Kim for letting me post this even though you think you sound a bit edgy. Considering it was dinner time and everyone was tired and hungry, it is a delightful conversation to overhear.

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Governor’s Child Abuse Task Force-Part 3

Recommendation #2. One toll free number should be used to report child abuse and neglect and skilled and trained staff should take the call.Now this is a recommendation with which I totally agree. Currently SRS maintains 7 call centers to receive reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. There are six Regional Protection Report Centers and the Kansas Protection Report Center (PRC). The PRC operates 24 hours a day seven days a week while the regional centers do not. This probably grew out of history where child welfare was originally part of county welfare offices. Over the years for a variety of reasons including reorganizations of SRS these responsibilities morphed and merged into our current arrangement. It is time to consolidate once more. The major argument against a single statewide hot-line is that local people have professional relationships and know community situations that make a local response more efficient and effective. In some communities social workers know the police officers and the county attorney very well and can call on them for nearly instant help in protecting a child. For example, a school social worker might suspect that a child is a victim of abuse, call a social worker in the local SRS office who might call a police officer and they would jointly investigate the situation within a few minutes or hours.A part of this argument is that a single statewide child abuse reporting hot-line is distant from the community, wouldn't know the key actors and may delay an effective response. For example, the school social worker in the previous example might think twice about calling an anonymous statewide phone number even though she/he is a mandated reporter.On the surface this argument has merit. Investigations are local. It is local police that aid the investigation. It is the county attorney that normally files the petition to find the child a "child in need of care". However, during the Governor's Protective Services Task Force meetings it was clear that the 7 call centers did not all operate in the same manner. This is a problem. If the person answering the phone whether it is local or regional, doesn't get the right information and make the right decision, a child's life may be endangered. This may be what occurred in the case of the two girls in Wichita. It is, in part, a matter of quality control. When the safety of a child is at stake it is important to get all the necessary information, check all relevant files such as the child abuse registry and Kansas Bureau of Investigation offender registry and make a correct decision. It is difficult to assure that this occurs for all calls in 7 call centers.Consistency is also important because a child abuse or neglect investigation brings the power of the state into private family matters. I don't think that we want a situation where an investigation of suspected child abuse would occur in one part of Kansas while that same situation would not start an investigation in another. With the technology available in 2007 there is no reason why a single statewide child abuse and neglect hot-line could not operate as efficiently as a local system. When a decision is made to investigate a case, staff can instantaneous call, email, text message or use whatever communication channels are available to notify local SRS social workers and police so that the investigation can begin. Of course if it is midnight the SRS social worker would not be on duty and the response would have to wait. But that is another problem.

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Robert Hawkins of Omaha

Robert Hawkins killed himself and eight other people in an Omaha mall. Another fact is that he spent time in treatment centers, group homes and foster care. For some people the headline says it all and that is all that they need to know about Robert. Foster care equals trouble. What does this say about Robert or foster care?Robert was certainly troubled and trouble for the community. From news reports we do not know all the details of his life. We do know that he could relate to some people in a non-dangerous way. Debra Maruca-Kovac took Robert into her home when he was homeless. At some point he had a girl friend. There was more to Robert than foster care. Placing a child in foster care is used by the community for protecting children from abuse or neglect. It is also used when we don't know how to help a parent respond to troublesome behavior.SRS reports that "83.8% of assigned reports involve the non-abuse neglect presenting situations without proper control." http://www.srskansas.org/CFS/datareports08.htmlThis means that when people call to report that a child is suspected of being a victim of child abuse or neglect they are more often reporting a child exhibiting behavior that is difficult to manage. Some of these children are placed into foster care. The assumption seems to be that parents are at fault and providing better parenting will change the child's behavior. I am certain that this is sometime true.It didn't work for Robert and it doesn't work for many others. Our ideas that parenting is responsible for a child's behavior is not always accurate. Many children have mental disorders that we don't recognize soon enough and for which our response is inadequate. That seems to be Robert's situation.We ask our child abuse and neglect agencies to also be our child mental health response and it doesn't always work. In Kansas we require our foster care agencies to be fiscally liable for some results for foster children. Our mental health centers are under no similar obligation. This is true in most states. "Shooter was in group homes, foster care" says little about Robert. It may say a lot about foster care and even more about children's mental health services that aren't even mentioned.

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Small Town Christmas Road Trip

This is how our spur of the moment road trip through small towns of the Flint Hills materialized. My husband said, "How about:" and I said, "Let's go." That's it. It only takes an hour from idea to heading up the lane in our camper van. These kinds of trips happen other times of the year, but never before at Christmas. We are ready to leave by 6:00 pm. Armed with Marci Penner's Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, a list of the best Chicken-fried Steaks in Kansas from the Kansas Explorers Club, and a map, we plan to find good rural Kansas food and Christmas decorations.Overbrook is a progressive small town only 11 miles south of our rural home. It does not surprise us their decorations are nice. Normally, we stop at Conrad's for their special, but there are more towns to visit. So, from there we head west on Hwy 56. We consider the restaurant at Four Corners because the parking lot is packed, a good sign in small town Kansas. Alas, it is not on the Best Chicken Fried List it so we head on, past The Trop for those who know.Scranton's lighted snowflakes are very beautiful for the size of their main street. No tarrying, it is on to Burlingame and Santa Fe Cafe, which is on the List. Decorated for the season and housed in an obviously historical storefront, the Santa Fe Cafe is busy. Local families laugh and visit while waiting for their orders. Even though pan-fried steaks are a prerequisite, ours are deep-fried. No matter, the homemade gravy and real mashed potatoes make up for it. Full with enough leftovers for breakfast, one last look at Burlingame's lights and we are off.Continuing on the old Santa Fe Trail route, Hwy 56, we visit Osage City, Admire and Bushong. Community spirit is still strong in small towns because they all manage nice decorations. Council Grove did not disappoint. As we slowly drive main street it seems the lights outlining the buildings and the decorated storefronts have a charm befitting the historic town. We take a little extra time to drive back through before taking off south on Hwy 177 toward our destination of Strong City and Cottonwood Falls. As we turn on the street leading up to the town square in Cottonwood Falls, the sight of the historic courthouse completely outlined in white lights was breathtaking. Businesses on each side of the street are festive but not over done to take away from the beautiful building. We stop right on the street to take it all in. Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By LindaKBy then it is 10:00 pm but Cottonwood Fall's Emma Chase Cafe is still rocking. We slip in a corner table and enjoy the bluegrass music. As people drifted home, the musicians soon outnumber the audience. Obviously, the jean and overall clad participants are having fun. The Emma Chase is winding down and so are we. We scout around for a spot to boondock for the night. Saturday morning finds us in a parking lot near downtown Cottonwood Falls. We enjoy our leftover chicken fried steak and coffee for breakfast and take off. I want to see the sunrise over the Flint Hills. We continued south on Hwy 57, part of the Flint Hills Scenic Byway. The sun is just peeking over the horizon as we stop at an overlook. Flint Hills as far as we can see with cattle still grazing despite the time of year makes this scene a quiet, inspirational moment. We continue south still enjoying the beautiful rolling hills, impressive barns and rock fences. Matfield Green is a tiny town, but earned an entrance to the turnpike.In no time, we are in Wichita and the outdoor/sporting store located in downtown near the convention center. We spend several hours shopping and turned toward home. We again exit at Matfield Green exit on the KTA because nearby is the Cassody Cafe in the town by the same name. The Cafe is on the Best Chicken Fried Steak list and we are hungry. Unfortunately, the menu said Thursdays only for the steak. We settle for their buffet of fried chicken and homemade beef and noodles with four-star gravy. The Cassody Cafe is a destination for motorcycle riders in the summer. From the pictures posted by the register, it appears the city doubles its size on weekends.As we once again stop at the tollbooth at Matfield Green, the lady recognizes it is our third time through. We laughingly tell her, Merry Christmas and head for home.

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Governor’s Child Abuse Task Force-Pt. 2

Governor's Child Abuse Task Force-Pt. 2I will briefly comment on each of the recommendations of the Task Force. This can become very long and technical. I will try to avoid that. This is why I will only undertake one recommendation at a time. This is not an easy task and I welcome comments that help clarify the issues or question my observations. See the first post for background. Recommendation 1. An ombudsman position and an independent board, separate from SRS, should be created. Observations:1). Policy formation by committee. This recommendation is a good example. Beware of sentences that contain 'and'. They frequently contain too much. In this case it is my opinion that both an ombudsman and a board are too much. 2.) An ombudsman is not a good idea. On the surface it sounds good to have an independent person who can investigate complaints. In reality this person or office would be overwhelmed by the number of complaints and the complexity of most situations. In the 2007 state fiscal year SRS received 53,048 reports of concern regarding children. Nearly every one of these is contested by someone. One full-time person (the recommendation) could not possibly respond to the demand. In the Wichita case, Governor Sebelius had her chief legal counsel investigate. I don't know how much time it took him but I bet he wasn't finished in an hour or two. If only 10% of the 53,000 cases requested an investigation, the ombudsman would have no more than 4 hours available per case (2,000 hours divided by 5,000.). If you question the 10%, just read the comments about SRS that accompany any published child abuse case. Child welfare is contentious. That is one of the reasons that we have judges involved in making child abuse and neglect decisions. 3.) An independent review board could be a good idea but not necessarily. The Task Force report includes several tasks for which this review board would be responsible. The task list is a good one. These tasks also require considerable child welfare expertise. One way to implement this recommendation would be to create an independent research center to do the work. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy is an excellent example. It was created in 1982 by the state legislature and is governed by a board that represents the legislature, governor and public universities. It does practical, non-partisan research at legislative direction. As a consumer of some of its research, I can say that they do excellent work. Check them out at http://www.wsipp.wa.gov. Will the Kansas legislature be willing to fund such a center? I doubt it. It is expensive. So a political compromise would likely be a review board without the expertise or funding to do the work. Not a pretty picture.4.) My recommendation. I recommended to the board that the state legislature require SRS to report annually on the effectiveness of its CPS operations. I think that this squarely places the responsibility for oversight where it belongs in the legislature and places the work where it should be - SRS. SRS can do the job and currently collects much of the data. CPS can be thought of as a series of decisions. For example, the decision to accept a phone call as a report; the decision to have a report investigated; the decision that a report really is child abuse or neglect; etc. It is now widely accepted that you can judge the effectiveness of a CPS system through data on each decision point. While this recommendation is not as strong as the creation of a Washington Institute for Public Policy capability in Kansas, it is better than an understaffed independent review board. Disclaimer: I do not make these critical comments because I am disappointed that the Task Force did not take my recommendations verbatim. I have been involved in public policy efforts too long for that type of attitude. I am quite pleased that they took my input seriously and included many of my ideas.

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Governor’s Child Abuse Task Force Report

Governor's Child Abuse Task ForceThe report is in. I will get to that later. Governor Sebelius created the Child Protective Services Task Force in July in response to a tragic case in Wichita. Two young girls were reported as suspected victims of abuse and the response was botched by Child Protective Services (CPS) of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The Task Force report includes 5 recommendations. I will comment on each of the recommendations but first a disclaimer and some observations. I am a tried and true citizen participant. That means I get involved by attending meetings and talking to those who represent us at the city, county, state and national level. I had a particular interest in the Child Protective Services Task Force because I have devoted over 30 years to research and writing about public child welfare that includes CPS in Kansas and Illinois. Observations1) I really wanted to be a member of the Task Force. I lobbied hard to be a member and failed. When the membership of the Task Force was announced, and I was not included, I called Chairman Tim Emert and asked to be included in notifications of meetings. He was gracious and I attend all of the meetings. I was allowed to ask questions and make comments and at one point was asked for my recommendations. I presented my observations and recommendations and I thought that they were well received. 2) The tyranny of the anecdote. Joe Loftus, an Illinois colleague, suggests that child welfare is too frequently the victim of bad policy that follows a news report of a bad outcome (the anecdote). The challenge presented by the Wichita case is determining if the situation involving the two young girls was common or unusual. The next task is examining policy and procedures to see what can be done to improve practice. This is an extremely difficult task given one case.3) Policy formation by committee. The Task Force members included a range of child welfare expertise from those who knew very little to those with years of experience. Judge Jean Shepherd, for example, has many years hearing Child In Need of Care cases (those involving, among other things, abuse and neglect) and is widely recognized as being an excellent child welfare judge. But how do you educate 14 diverse people on the complex issues involved in CPS and create a consensus on recommendations in six meetings that not all members can regularly attend? With great difficulty.4) The Task Force worked hard. Given the constraints it is my observation that the Task Force did a good job. They listened, asked good questions, they thoughtfully deliberated.So what about the recommendations? That's next.Can't wait? Read the report at http://www.governor.ks.gov/documents/071129-FinalCPSreport.pdf

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Into the sunset?

Women can retire at 60 in Europe and receive an "old age pension" as well as a free bus pass, free spectacles in addition to other special deals. A man has to wait until he is 65 for such perks. In America the AARP marked me as a Senior as soon as I hit my fifties and some stores give me a senior discount (wihtout checking ID I might add) but I have to wait until 62 to get a Marriot Senior discount and Social Security.Some people have cynically said that it's hard to tell when Europeans are retired because they take so much vaction anyway. The minimum vacation is 21 working days (which translates into four weeks including the week-ends) and then one has to add the Bank Holidays, which, if strategically placed with vacation can amount to six weeks. Of course, in many jobs, the amount of vacation can be anything from the minimum four weeks to a sensible fourteen weeks a year.Just as I was preparing to take advantage of the "old age pension" from UK and Social Security from the US, I met an 81 year old woman who moved to Lawrence when she was 64 to get a new job. She "retired" at 70, didn't like it, and worked in a Bank until she finally decided enough was enough at 80. She still does volunteer work and looks better than I do even on a good day. She's one of a growing number of seniors in the US who continue working simply because they love their jobs.Is there a way we can strike the balance between these two cultures? I know people who take only a week vacation and spend it cleaning out the garage, or "doing odd jobs around the house." This seems like a recipe for stress-related illness somewhere down the road. However, when I look at those octogenarians who have worked well past retirement age, they seem pretty healthy to me.I would love to hear from those of you who retired in your early sixties or before, and those of you who have worked, or continute to work into your eighties or even nineties.

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The Milky Way Woman

I heard about the Milky Way Woman while attending Douglas County's first healing retreat for those people who had lost someone due to suicide.

I have been trying to put a spiritual perspective on my mother's suicide, when I was three, for most of my life. See my article: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/20/nov/loved_ones_gather_healing_retreat_wake_suicide

While at the retreat, I met a native American Indian woman who had recently lost her sister to suicide. She told me about the belief that the Lakota Indians have. They believe that the Milky Way is the crossroads between heaven and earth and that an old woman, the Milky Way Woman, stands guard at this crossroads. The Milky Way Woman decides when someone dies whether they go to heaven or are sent back to earth depending on how well they lived their life.

After some research, I discovered that several other Indian tribes have a similar belief, and some tribes believe that the light coming from the Milky Way is the campfires of souls as they make their journey to heaven.

The Lakota Indians have an extremely high rate of suicide among their young people.

I dedicate the following poem to the Lakota people, all of those who have lost someone to suicide, and to my mother, Peggy Miller Wiggins.

The Milky Way Woman 11-14-07

When I was three

And you sent me

Out to play in the

Snow while you

Put a bullet through

Your heart

I did not cry

I curled into a ball

And sucked my thumb

When Daddy came

That night and said

Look up into the

Sky and see your

Mommy's face In the stars

I did not look

I did not want

To see your face

So far away

And so small

But now I'm

Grown and have

Children of my own

I want to stand

On the edge

Of the Milky Way

With you, hand in hand

And when the

Milky Way Woman

Gives the command

You and I

Will take that

Leap together

Wait for me

Where do you believe souls go after they leave the physical body?

How is the soul separate from the spirit?

How is the mind separate from the soul?

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