Helping abused children without defying the law

As a clinical child psychologist I certainly empathized with your March 24 moral dilemma column, "The law vs. the heart." In my more than 20 years of working with children I have often had to report abuse, and I have at times been disappointed with the response of child protective teams. However, this is no reason to defy the reporting law, as Anne Mize suggests. Failure to report suspected abuse is a serious breach of ethics and law and can result in a loss of one's license. Without a license, Ms. Mize would not be able to counsel any children.

The problem is not with the law. The problem is an overburdened child welfare department that lacks the resources to adequately protect abused children. Mental health professionals can address this problem by raising the public's awareness about the need, and by advocating for more resources. In addition, Mize's description of her dilemma suggests that she is not receiving appropriate clinical supervision. There are many effective ways to address this common dilemma without defying the law. Clinical supervision should be designed to help professionals develop the skills they need to resolve the problems they face in practice.

Maureen Neihart Billings, Mont.

NASA success requires more funds

Your March 29 editorial "NASA's course correction" gave a reasonable description of the current situation within NASA. It did, however, leave out the other side of the equation, which is the money NASA has available to do things. The populace and Congress are thrilled by outer-space exploration, as well they should be. Unfortunately, most people, including most of Congress, simply do not understand the technical requirements for assuring a high probability of success in projects like these.

As you suggest, NASA needs to tighten up and use its expertise to resist taking on projects that they know cannot have a high probability of success with the funding provided. At the same time, Congress needs to learn the real costs of achieving that kind of success. The old engineering maxim applies here: "Faster, Better, Cheaper: Pick any two."

Terry Zaccone Saratoga, Calif.

Oil prices should prompt new habits

Your March 30 article "Gas prices change daily routines" on increasing gasoline prices correctly quoted the frustrated Southern California aerospace engineer Jerry Fein who said the current gasoline situation is "absolutely ridiculous" - and he is more right than he realizes.

What is "ridiculous" is not that gasoline is selling for $1.90 a gallon, but rather that Mr. Fein, an educated man in today's enlightened society, would have thought it wise to have an 80-mile round trip commute from where he is employed. Fein and hundreds of thousands of other sub-suburban dwellers in L.A. and other megaplexes who display such lack of common sense and ecological awareness have only themselves to blame for the fix they're in.

Douglas J. Swanson Shawnee, Okla.

Your article "Gas prices change daily routines" made many excellent points about the "economic hardships" that high oil prices are causing.

We are currently using millions of years' worth of oil in an incredibly short time; with the first oil pumped in the mid-1800s, and at current consumption rates, the last of the oil could be removed from Mother Earth's protection in 30 to 45 years.

If Americans think $2 a gallon is too much to pay, how much will the last few precious gallons sell for? In 45 years, I will be old and nostalgic about "cheap" $2 oil.

Rick Waters Athens, Ga.

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