Thursday, May 8, 2008

DSHS--more bureaucratic idiocy in the name of "protecting children"

Here's a link to a Court of Appeals' decision here involving DSHS's ongoing attempt to deny a foster care license to a previously-licensed Eastern Washington couple, Joshua and Janet Ruland.

So what, exactly, was the horrible crime this couple committed to be denied an opportunity to continue as foster parents for needy children? What heinous acts were devised and carried out by this well-meaning couple against vulnerable kids? What depraved indifference and incredible idiocy did these people demonstrate that the state felt compelled to act to keep them away from children?

Answer: Nothing.

The Rulands had been caring for a two-year old boy and his one-month old sister. On one occasion, Janet left the baby girl napping on the floor of their home and went outside and mowed the lawn. When she came back inside a few minutes later, the infant's toddler brother had bitten her on her head and scratched her face a bit. The Rulands took the baby right away to the emergency room where her wounds were determined to be "superficial." Then the Rulands, following foster parent rules, reported the incident to DSHS.

DSHS determined that the Rulands were "negligent." Some time later, the Rulands moved into a new home, and per DSHS rules, because of the move they re-applied for licensure as foster parents. DSHS denied them license renewal.

The Rulands appealed, but for some reason their appeal was filed one day late. On the basis of this one day late filing, and on the one incident, DSHS again denied the Rulands their license.

I know that DSHS workers have a really tough job, and that nobody wants to make a mistake where a kid ends up abused, neglected, or dead. But adversarial actions like these actually hurts the kids who the state is supposed to be helping, and it prevents well-meaning people who want to help those kids from doing so.

Parents and caregivers make mistakes and errors raising children, but it doesn't follow that every mistake or every error rises to the level of "neglience" or "abuse." It was a mistake for these foster parents to leave the toddler alone and unsupervised for a few minutes with his infant sister, but it's not something that should prevent these good-hearted people from being foster parents.

Biological parents make the mistake of leaving toddlers alone and unsupervised with infant siblings all the time. There simply isn't any parent in the world who hasn't had to deal with similar toddler-on-baby bouts of jealousy, rage, harassment, nit-picking, acting out, aggression and fights between siblings. That a toddler boy would bite his infant sister when given an opening to do so isn't unusual, or unexpected. In fact it's normal, and not realistically preventable.

When such an incident does occur, however, the parents need to act to evaluate any injury, treat it quickly and appropriately, and then take steps to socialize and discipline the aggressive child in an age-appropriate manner. This is exactly what the Rulands did. And what did DSHS do? Accuse them of neglect and move to prevent them from ever being foster parents ever again.


I wish the Rulands the best in their continuing court battle to restore their right to be foster parents. We need more people just like them.

Monday, May 5, 2008

An Instant Classic

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Green Plug--Pond Scum Power!

Here's a link to a Popular Mechanics article about the amazing potential for producing high-quality biofuels from algae.

Pond scum power plants are largely self-contained and highly space-efficient. They can be constructed almost anywhere. They are safe and clean. Plus using algae instead of corn, soybean or palms means that more lands won't be cleared for industrial production, and existing food crops won't be diverted for fuel.

All power to the pond scum!

Why Women Should Vote

This is a copy/paste of a recent e-mail I received:


Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie "Iron Jawed Angels." It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. "One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie," she said. "What would those women think of the way I use--or don't use--my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn." The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her "all over again."

This is the story of our Grandmothers, and Great-grandmothers, as they lived only 90 years ago. It was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic."

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the "Night of Terror" on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some won won't vote this year because-- why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hey You! Volunteer for the Presidental Election!

There's going to be a HUGE crush of voters and votes cast in the upcoming presidential election. Your county election board is going to need an equally large number of volunteers to make sure that the election runs smoothly, that every voter who wants to vote can vote, and that every vote that is cast counts.

We need progressives who care about maintaining the integrity of our electoral system to volunteer NOW to work the presidential election. The earlier you sign up to volunteer, the more likely it is that you will be assigned to "plum" jobs of higher responsibility so that electorial integrity is maintained.

I volunteered for this past primary. It was an interesting, eye-opening, and highly rewarding experience, plus I got to meet and greet my heretofore unknown neighbors.

Progressives--please volunteer for this. We need more good people watchdogging the process.

May 08 Wash State Bar Atty Discipline

Here's a link to the latest Washington State Bar attorney disciplines. It's almost as good as reading your local police blotter.