To the editor:
Rep. Matt Huuki (R-Atlantic Mine)'s response to a question concerning abuse of youth home residents was disappointing. In a Texas study, 10 percent of the juvenile population in placement reported sexual abuse from staff. This raises the issue of state funding for youth placement. When the state takes a child from its home and places him or her in an institution, we become responsible for the welfare of that child.
Some children placed in youth homes for reasons of abuse are further abused while in placement. This is a national tragedy. To (Scott) Dianda, (D-Calumet)'s credit, he discussed the need for proper funding of such programs. Mr. Huuki, rather, focused on the need to review worker qualifications.
Mr. Huuki seems to avoid the funding responsibility and blame the workers. Too often I hear of justification for millions in executive salaries because we need the best and the brightest to run our corporations. Don't our children deserve the same consideration as corporations? Why doesn't that same principle apply to the juvenile system? We get what we pay for and abused children pay the price.
Generally, a youth home worker is a part-time position. Typical coverage of residents may be one staff member to each four to six youth. Given that the residential population are children removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, incorrigibility or delinquency, a group of that size can be difficult to manage.
A study compared abuse in United States youth facilities with England, and found significantly more abuse in U.S. institutions. The difference was found in the employment structure. England requires strict qualifications for workers. In return, the job is valued and adequately compensated, with generous benefits. This approach keeps good workers on the job, who can keep residents safe, and implement a program beneficial to residents.
The state needs to take responsibility for placed children, keep them safe, and help them recover from a poor start in life. Helping a new generation recover from childhood harm is not only the proper economic policy, but also the moral thing to do.
Any state representative, like Matt Huuki, who votes to underfund our juvenile system has to take responsibility for the results. Huuki reflects the Republican idea of "privatizing the problem and letting the market work it out."
I trust Scott Dianda as well as other Democrats to take responsibility for the needs of our children and make the proper economic and moral choices.