Unfair and unbalanced

This letter is offered to present a more balanced view of the Orange County GAL Program than was provided by Deanna Sheffield's article "The least of us" `July 26`.

If you accept Ms. Sheffield's article as written, one would judge the success of a Guardian Ad Litem Program by two things: the percentage of children they represent and whether their volunteers are attorneys or lay people.

Orange County's percentage of representation mirrors the statewide average. Our goal is to achieve 100 percent representation. However the measure of true success is not just 100 percent representation, but the impact GALs make in the lives of the children they represent. At the onset of the three-year pilot project Ms. Sheffield references in her article, over 5,000 children in Orange County had a GAL assigned to their case, and by the end less than 2,000 had a GAL. This decrease resulted not from a lack of volunteers but because those children were successfully moved out of foster care and into permanent homes.

We are proud of the multitude of volunteer attorneys in our program who care deeply about the security and well being of the children they protect as GALs. We are also grateful for the significant contributions of the many non-attorney volunteers who donate their time to us as well.

Contrary to the views expressed in the article, our volunteers, both attorney and non-attorney, take these cases because they care about abused and neglected children and nothing else. To say otherwise is outrageous. From 2000 through 2006, Orange County lawyers have donated well over 100,000 hours of their time to the children. The majority of them have volunteered for at least six years, many of them more than 15 and some for more than 20 years.

Finally, Ms. Sheffield failed to inform your readers that like lay GALs, Orange County GALs are provided with training and staff social workers for assistance. Unlike most other programs, Orange County GALs have access to five full-time staff attorneys with expertise in the areas of health, education, permanency, immigration and mental health to help ensure the children receive an expanded array of services.

A good friend told me that the article reminder her of one that might have been written by a journalistic character in today's most loved series of children's books. Many of your readers will know who she was referring to without my saying more.

Susan Khoury, Orlando

Best wishes from Seminole

Oh, thank goodness I live in Seminole. We also have our loonies, but nothing like this `Council Watch, July 26`. I wish those in Orlando and Orange County the best and there better not be a downturn in the economy or, God-forbid, another attack, and no hurricanes better come to Orlando and crime better stop and any of a thousand other things that could leave the tourists at home and leave the residents on the hook for that $1.1 billion.

Yes, I know, the residents will never pay for it, but who do you think supports the Magic and pays their ticket prices? And that Citrus Bowl may just land the national tractor pull championships or the Boy Scout Jamboree. Oh and the arts center. Has anyone actually attended these traveling Broadway shows like The Lion King? They are horrendous.

I wish you well. After the debacle of the convention center, the massive cost overruns and even worse management, that was a disaster. And these are just going to be even worse.

Lisa, via the Internet

Shut up, commoners

Congratulations to the venues supporters. I am certain that all elected officials did as best as they are capable in this process.

I appreciated the opportunity to speak and be heard. Unfortunately, Commissioner Brummer's initiative for a public referendum failed to gain sufficient support. Finally, the place of the common citizen in this community's form of government was made perfectly clear Thursday night. The fact that roughly the first 25 speakers "randomly drawn" were special interests and/or the community's pro-venues movers and shakers speaks volumes.

Ray Kockentiet, via the Internet

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