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Letters

October 16, 2009

Re "Innocents betrayed: Flawed county system lets children die invisibly," Oct. 11

Although it is fair to assume there are many shortcomings in the system, I feel blame needs to be shared. The tragedy is in the utter lack of parental responsibility. I fear The Times' article is more focused on the state of the county's child welfare and juvenile justice system than in addressing the real culprit here.

Both Miguel Padilla and Lazhanae Harris were abandoned by their parents with tragic consequences to their early development. When do we hold these parents responsible?

There is much inefficiency within the welfare system, but cut these people some slack; they have not chosen this career for the perks and the glory, but for the love and care of the children.

Ann Drury

Laguna Niguel

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Troubled youths are committing suicide, and the county doesn't even seem to know it. The county needs to step up and make sure that these troubled youths grow up into the responsible men and women they deserve to become one day. Those hundreds of children have lost the opportunity to do something great with their lives. When will the county actually stop and help them?

Jessica Araujo

Sylmar

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Your writers accurately illustrate these children's complex family situations, frequent chaotic journeys through the child welfare system, and sometimes tragic endings.

However, the title should be "Flawed society," not "Flawed county system." It is all too easy to relegate these children's needs and futures exclusively to the domain of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. But how many of us step up to foster, adopt, mentor or contribute in other ways to help this population? How many of us speak out when mental health, education and court services are cut to these vulnerable children and caregivers?

These "innocents" need loving attention from a "village" in order to survive and hopefully thrive -- and we all need to do better by them.

Susan Edelstein

Los Angeles

The writer is an adjunct assistant professor with the UCLA Department of Pediatrics.

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As a single parent of two teenagers whose father abandoned them as young children, I was absolutely horrified by the circumstances of the two children profiled.

My horror was not so much spurred by the disturbing details of an overburdened child welfare system, but rather by the complete lack of care and love these poor children received in their short lives from their birth and adoptive families.

Lazhanae's mother had nine children, and gave most away. Miguel's mother left him behind, taking her other children.

Who does this to children? How can a state possibly replace the basic emotional necessities that children need to survive when their families can't do even do the bare minimum?

Hannah Galloway

Santa Monica

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I can see the letters now: decrying an uncaring and inept child protection system, and judgments on the families that did not care for their children. All share in the responsibility for these children's deaths. But there is plenty of blame to go around. As taxpayers, we too share the blame. A brief look at our state budget cuts shows our own culpability in these children's deaths.

Our unwillingness to pay for the prevention and intervention services necessary to prevent these tragedies should shame us all.

Gaile Price

Los Angeles

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As a retired social worker (not with the county), my heart broke reading the stories. The system certainly must be "fixed," but there is more that is needed.

One common denominator is the lack of an adult who consistently shows that young person that someone does care about them. The same someone must be there when the child is moved again and again.

It is a tall order for a volunteer, but I think we are out there and would be willing to step in. Is there an avenue to do this, and if not, can one be developed?

Gail Buckley

Los Angeles

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