by Inlander Readers

Sick System -- I am a health care professional here in Spokane, Washington. At present, there is a severe problem with layoffs happening at all or most of the hospitals in our area. This affects not only hospital personnel but everyone in the Spokane area.

Our doctors are moving out of state because they can't afford insurance coverage or malpractice coverage any longer. Our nurses are being laid off because the hospital organizations have to tighten their budgets, simply because they aren't getting enough return from the insurance companies.

I have been an employee of Empire Health Services and Valley Hospital and Medical Center for seven years, and I've never seen anything like this. We are all concerned about losing our jobs; many already have. We are concerned about losing the hospital altogether and not having the adequate facilities and resources for local residents who need health care. There is speculation (but no confirmation) that Deaconess Hospital may close as well. Just two days ago, we were told that the unit I work on will be closing this coming Friday. Our management gave us no warning.

It is for the welfare of this state, this city's hospitals, doctors, health care professionals and patients, that we face this situation head on. We must find answers now, for the problem is right here, right now.

The rising cost of insurance premiums, along with the decrease of insurance payouts, is causing Washington's health care to disappear. Not only is this affecting Washington's health care workers and their patients, it's having a negative impact as well on Washington's overall economy.

Shana Lannigan

Spokane, Wash.

Others Relate -- I just finished reading "Kicked to the Curb" (7/29/04), about homeless teenagers, and did agree with it on many points. A place like Crosswalk does much good for many teens who have nowhere else to go. I was fortunate enough to find other ways to escape living with my often neglectful and alcoholic mother and still managed to graduate from high school, so I've not experienced Crosswalk firsthand. What I did was file a CHINS (Child in Need of Services) petition the last time my mother had me thrown in jail for allegedly assaulting her. See, in this area, a parent can hit a child and it's OK as long as it doesn't leave marks or hasn't been witnessed by CPS. But if a minor tries so much as to push a parent off them, then that's fourth-degree assault and the child can be arrested.

I was locked up for six days over a weekend because she didn't press charges. Then she didn't pick me up. As a result, I went to the Crisis Residential Center to attempt counseling with her. She never checked me in for 72 hours, during which I couldn't go to school, because she was partying for St. Patrick's Day. So I learned about the CHINS petition, filled out the paperwork and was told how not to let my mother find out exactly where I was going (in order to prevent harassment). I stayed with a friend until I turned 18. It's the only way I graduated.

The only issue I have with Crosswalk is outside its front door. I work nearby, and often feel when walking to my car or to lunch that I need to cross the street out of my way so as to avoid passing directly in front of its doors. Often, in the middle of the day, the kids stand outside smoking, too often throwing rude comments the way of the passers-by. On one particular instance, I was asked for money, and when I said I was short, they asked for my cell phone. I kept walking, looking ahead. So while I admire the effort of Crosswalk, they need to teach the kids not to make the place look bad by standing outside and harassing people on their lunch break. All it does is show working adults a reason to not take them seriously or, sometimes, to not want to help them.

Kathy Unger

Spokane, Wash.

Real Survivors -- Thank you for your article "Kicked to the Curb" (7/29/04) about homeless teenagers. It is extremely important to the future of our country's children that we increase public awareness of the issues of street children through media and public information campaigns. No child is born wanting to live on the streets. Families raise their children with a choice. It's a desperate situation when children grow up with no love or support, no matter how poor or rich they may be. Constant struggles within a family place children under enormous pressure and can drain them of energy and enthusiasm. When relationship building between family members is neglected and the harmonious caring family atmosphere breaks down, children feel abandoned.

The vacuum at home increasingly leads them to look outside for the physical and emotional satisfaction they are missing.

Sometimes children leave home because they are the focus of too much attention. The behavior of fathers or boyfriends can often be erratic or violent and a child suffers from being pushed around at whim, never knowing when the next blow will fall. Boys and girls also abandon home because of sexual abuse. Living on the street can be a choice that even children from happy homes make. The street is a place where a child -- whether abused, neglected or looking for adventure -- takes responsibility for his or her own childhood. No matter how awful their homeless lives may be, they grow up believing that it's a triumph simply to survive after being abandoned and then persecuted by adults. When we observe them living from day to day with no thought of a future, it can appear that street children are wasting their lives in a reckless and irresponsible game. The truth, instead, lies somewhere between triumph and recklessness.

When children choose to play the game of living on the street, they don't realize that it's a game with life-or-death rules. Even if they do realize the rules, street children often feel they have no choice but to carry on.

Dore E. Frances

Independent Educational Consultant, Horizon Family Solutions

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

No Sugar Here -- Thank you for the full-length feature article "Kicked to the Curb" (7/29/04), on homeless children in Spokane. It was extremely well written and thoroughly covered. The photography was excellent! The picture on the cover of the Inlander attracted me, and I had an emotional reaction looking at it. I rarely read the Inlander, but the picture made me pick it up. The article was well written because you reported everything and it was not sugarcoated. You showed different perspectives, especially when you reported what the police sergeant had to say. I found it especially interesting when he said Americans vote with their money, referring to people donating to panhandlers. I believe people hand over money because they feel guilty; also, they don't know how else to help.

I am a graduate student from the Human Services Program at North Idaho College and have taken a criminal justice class. It was a huge eye-opener concerning what law enforcement goes through. Now I'm going into the Social Work Program at EWU.

Here is my favorite quotation from your article, by Lynne Everson of the Needle Exchange program: "We, as a society, have failed that child because we let them grow up in horrific places. And when they're not cute anymore, we blame them."

Amen. If the law wasn't so stuck on keeping children with their biological parents no matter what, our children would at least stand a chance of having a better life. That's where I truly believe society has failed our children. We do not value, respect, and reward our foster parents, and we make it so difficult for potential parents to adopt. Until we are able to protect our children from the horrific homes they are born into, society will continue to fail. Heartbreaking indeed. Thanks for doing such a great job!

Susan Stokes

Spokane, Wash.

Publication date: 08/19/04

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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