Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, December 9, 2003


On Saturday, we reported that the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors is wiggling for a loophole in the Code of Iowa to see if it is really locked into a mandate to pay for sheltered care for troubled children.

One can almost hear the gasp of righteous indignation go up. Local government, trying to worm out of its reposibility to help children in need of shelter?

But really, it is parents who are responsible for their children. The county is right to ask a legal opinion on the mandate. They should try to pass on costs to the parents when young people must be taken out of the home for whatever reason, as they were right when they tried to bill parents to pay for the hundred bucks a day it takes to house young criminals in the YES Center at Cherokee.

Iowa taxpayers have never dodged the bullet when it comes to helping those truly in need as a last-ditch. We can and should extend a hand to the truly needy, the homeless, those is need of vocational education, shelter against domestic violence, mental health services and on and on.

But the taxpayer should be that last-ditch, not an automatic handout. And local taxpayers shouldn't be a convenient placed to dump the burden for unfunded mandates by the feds or the state.

It may sound cruel, but the intent is not to deny any child a sheltered situation, but to finally make a stand and determine what is really mandated and what is not.

Especially in the tight economic times with hard choices are likely to be made, it is not unwise for the county to ask for a legal determination of what it really has to pay for. As supervisors point out, they don't even have assurance right now that the people they are sent bills for are even actual residents of this county.

When it comes to family situations and the needs for care and services they may cause, especially in the case of juveniles who may get in trouble with the law, those bills should go to families first, not the courthouse.

Only if and when there is no reasonable other way for care to be provided should such bills be coming as a burden to the general public, through the deep pockets of our local governments.

In the past generation, it has become much too easy to expect government to solve all problems, pay all bills, provide all services for a societal meltdown.

The supervisors are right. It shouldn't be so easy. God bless those kids in need, and let's see they are taken care of, but let's also know what our responsibility really is.