Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Georgia Child Welfare Reforms Endangered by New Litigation

/PRNewswire/ -- Legal action by a group that calls itself "Children's Rights" (CR) threatens child welfare reforms that have made Georgia's children safer, a national child advocacy group said Tuesday.

CR issued an inflammatory press release alleging that Georgia "may" be endangering thousands of children by keeping them out of foster care. "They rely largely on horror story cases from the state's Office of Child Advocate (OCA)," said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. "But when you try to make policy based on horror stories the results for children are horrible.

"In fact, since Georgia instituted its 'diversion' program, child safety has significantly improved. That's clear from the reduction in re-abuse of children known to the child welfare agency - a reduction seen both in formally-opened cases and in cases where families are helped through a process known in Georgia as 'diversion.'

"In contrast, independent court-appointed monitors overseeing a consent decree negotiated by CR concerning foster care in Atlanta found that there is a huge problem of abuse in foster care itself. Just two months ago, CR's own Associate Director, Ira Lustbader declared that 'We are extremely concerned that children in the Atlanta foster care system are simply not safe. ...' Yet now, CR is back in court, initiating a process apparently designed to shovel more children into this unsafe system."

At the moment, Wexler said, CR is seeking only further information - information even the court monitors refuse to help them get. "As a matter of principle, we believe almost every record maintained by a child welfare agency should be public. So we believe that even though CR may misuse the information, they should get it."

In addition, Wexler said, though diversion has made Georgia's children safer, OCA found real problems in the process, including a lack of statewide standards.

"Georgia has contracted with an outside expert to design a statewide system based on best practice in other states. OCA should monitor the process and make sure it's implemented. That's a far better approach than the one taken by CR, which seems intent on scaring Georgians away from a safe, proven alternative to needless foster care," Wexler said.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Georgia Baptist College of Nursing to Host Conference on End-of-Life Care

Mercer University’s Georgia Baptist College of Nursing will host a research conference on end-of-life care Friday, March 26, in the Trustees Dining Room on the University’s Atlanta campus.  The conference, titled “Perspectives and Reflections from the Gloaming of Life:  Palliative Care and End-of-Life Challenges,” is open to all members of the nursing, theology, pharmacy and medical professions. In addition, nurses who attend may receive 4.5 contact hours on palliative care from the Georgia Nurses Association.

“As more of our health care is provided outside of hospitals, the care of patients with life-limiting illness is increasingly provided in the community by families and informal caregivers,” said Dr. Janet Timms, professor of nursing and one of the conference’s organizers.  “There is no right way to live or die as a result of these life-limiting diseases. Each disease presents its own set of challenges for patients and for their caregivers. The conference will provide updated knowledge about palliative care for health professionals, caregivers and individuals facing life-limiting illnesses and equip health professionals and informal caregivers to provide high-quality, compassionate end-of-life care.”

The Rev. Dr. Julie Pennington-Russell, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur and a Mercer Trustee, will be speak at the opening session. Dr. Pennington-Russell’s presentation is titled “Spiritual Dimensions/Care of Those in the Final Stages of Life.”

The conference is scheduled to run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and consists of five sessions in addition to Pennington-Russell’s opening presentation.  The morning sessions include: Dr. Robyn Mowery, assistant professor of family therapy in Mercer’s School of Medicine, presenting “Grieving with Hope:  Anticipatory Loss through Bereavement” and Dr. Susan S. Gunby, professor of nursing, presenting ‘“Being There’ and ‘Being Here’ During the Phases of Suffering.”

The three afternoon sessions include: Dawn Keller, staff nurse in a cardiovascular intensive care unit for Wellstar Health Systems, presenting “It's a Roller-Coaster Ride:  The Lived Experience of Critical Care Nurses Caring for Patients during the Dying Process;” Dr. Denise Massey, associate professor in the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, presenting “How Pastoral Care Giver can Contribute to Palliative Care;” and Elaine Harris, associate professor of nursing, and Ann Keeley, associate professor of nursing, co-presenting ‘“Can You Help Me Find My Bus Ticket?’ Understanding the Communications of Those Who Are Dying.”

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rebates For Clunker Appliances

A federal program encourages the retirement of inefficient appliances with cash rebates.

Like the Cash for Clunkers program that removed gas-hog automobiles off the road, the Department of Energy's Appliance Rebate Program hopes to get electricity-hog appliances out of the home. Federal money will be channeled to give consumers rebates on efficient refrigerators and water heaters in the next few weeks.

As part of the stimulus package voted by Congress in 2009, about $300 million will be distributed by the DOE to the states on the basis of population. Last summer the states sent in requests, and the actual funds are now about to be dispersed. For example, New Jersey is getting $8.3 million, Wisconsin $5 million and Maryland $5.4 million.

Unlike the Cash for Clunkers program, which required consumers to exchange their old cars for more efficient vehicles, consumers will not need to bring in their inefficient appliances. The rebates apply only to the sale of new, Energy Star certified appliances.

In many cases the rebates will be distributed through the very companies that already deliver power to your home, some of which already offer rebates toward energy-efficient refrigerators and washing machines. In Maryland five large power utilities offer such rebates, paid for by tiny surcharges to consumers' monthly utility bills, and these rebates are available right now.

The new federal money will be layered on top of the existing utility programs, said Lauren Swiston of the Maryland Energy Administration in Annapolis. She said because the DOE rebates come out of the once-only stimulus funding, they will be given out as long as the block grant lasts on a first-come, first-served basis.

Swiston expected about 40,000 rebates to be given out in Maryland through the federal program. Maryland will be working with the utilities to distribute the rebate funding, so that consumers can access both the utility and federal rebates at the same time. This funding is not yet available, but consumers should look for inserts in their utility bills within the next month or so with more information about the program.

Efficient appliances are those designated by the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star rating system for thrifty energy use. These models are typically 30 percent more efficient than non-designated appliances. For certain models of Energy Star appliances that are super-efficient, rebates (utility plus federal) might be as great as $100 for clothes washers and $50 for refrigerators. Maryland will also give a $300 rebate for innovative new heat-pump-based water heaters.

The earlier automobile Cash for Clunkers program drew some criticism since the rebates -- as much as several thousand dollars per car -- appeared to be too generous. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in N.Y., argued that there were much more economical ways of lowering the amount of energy consumption or carbon dioxide emissions by cars.

Lauren Swiston said that this criticism should not apply to the appliance rebates since the amounts for fridges were much more modest. "They're not meant as a major subsidy for the appliance ... but only as an encouragement to reduce energy expenditures."

By Phillip F. Schewe
Inside Science News Service
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