COL Readers, here is what I meant

It's good to know newspaper readers don't take the summer off.

I got a lot of e-mails and phone calls in response to a column I wrote last month about a couple whose monthly payments for care for their severely disabled daughter have increased 900 percent, or more than $250 a month, as a result of recent budget-balancing legislation.

Many of those who wrote maintained that the family had been paying far too little for care for their child, so the extra charge was more than justified.

Among those who responded was Rep. Fran Bradley of Rochester, Chairman of the House Human Services Policy Committee. He pointed out that the state pays thousands of dollars monthly to families for the care of disabled children in the state, while the parents pick up only a small fraction of the tab. The state is not denying care to families of disabled children, he said, it's just making the system more equitable. He urged me to tell the "other side of the story."

I don't disagree with Rep. Bradley that parents of disabled children get a great deal of financial help from the state, much more than they pay out of their own pockets. And I don't disagree that the formula the state uses to determine how much families reimburse the state needs to be changed. As I pointed out in my column, the Jones family is willing to do their part to help balance the budget.


The point I was trying to make is that it was unfair to make this change in one fell swoop, with virtually no notice, rather than phase the changes in over a period of time. Think about it. If your mortgage payment suddenly went up 900 percent, how would you come up with the extra cash?

Plus, I don't think most of the naysayers understand what a financial burden it is to provide care for a profoundly disabled child. Parents have to build wheelchair ramps, retrofit bathrooms and bedrooms, and purchase special vehicles, among other things, all at their own expense. But they do it because they want to keep their children at home, amid familiar surroundings in a loving environment.

"The general population do not realize the extra expense that comes with having a child with disabilities," one reader who has a disabled daughter wrote. "(The needs of) individuals with developmental disabilities do not change with economic times."


I'm still getting mail on the column I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how children don't seem to be spending as much time outside anymore.

Nearly all of the letters were like this one, which read in part: "Some of my best memories are of growing up in St. Paul and playing kick the can in the alley behind our house. Also climbing a tree to a crudely made treehouse, making blanket tents on a clothesline and reading comic books and having my peanut butter sandwich in there …; I agree that the kids today are way too involved in television and video games. I would have had my Harry Potter book in a tent."

But one reader had a different take on the issue. She suggested that parents don't feel comfortable letting their children play outside because gangs, drug dealers and child abductors have made our neighborhoods unsafe. "This world is not the same world that you and I grew up in," she wrote.

I guess I don't feel the same kind of threat and danger this reader does. If I did, I wouldn't be living in Rochester.



Finally, I'd like to pay tribute to someone I wrote about in this space a while back. Doane Root of rural Spring Valley was one of the folks I honored in December 2000 for doing good deeds for others without fanfare. "Real-life Santas," I called them.

For years, Doane, who died last week at the age of 80, planted rutabagas in an oats field near his home.

Every fall, Doane harvested more than 1,000 pounds of the vegetables. He gave them all away -- to food banks, church potluck organizers, Amish farmers, anyone who needed them.

I've written about a lot of folks who were more famous than Doane Root, but few more generous.

Greg Sellnow's columns appear Tuesdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at 285-7703 or by e-mail at

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