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Congress can't solve every problem Your editorial, "Federal Overstepping" (Jan. 15), was right on target. Even if there were unlimited resources, and that certainly is not our problem, there is no excuse for Congress trying to solve everyone's problems. It really does seems as if Congress and the Clinton administration have the attitude that no matter what the issue, the federal government has an answer.

When did it become a federal government responsibility to pay for local police officers? Or for local school teachers and their classrooms? I expect to wake up some morning to read that Congress has ordered a new stop sign in my neighborhood!

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William B. Barrons Astoria, Ore.

Helping kids in need - across the globe

I was thrilled to read the opinion piece by Allan Luks, "Helping kids in need - one path to racial healing" (Jan. 4). As I read, I realized that I knew he was right because I've experienced this racial healing firsthand.

My husband and I are foster parents, and we have found foster parents in general to be the most race-tolerant people we have ever met. We know families who have adopted from one to seven children, with no preference whatsoever of race.

A few years ago, San Diego County had a policy of separating families who were not of the same race, so we spearheaded a bill, which California passed, requiring race to be among the factors in choosing foster and adoptive parents, but not one that can be used exclusively.

The whole state is now as color-blind as the foster parents. And, according to your notice that "California is projected to lose white majority by mid-2001" (News In Brief, Jan. 8) we are just in time, as most foster parents are Caucasian and most foster children are children of color in California.

Also, thank you for the information on Russian orphanages and how they are starting to utilize foster parents, understanding that it is better for children to be in families instead of institutions ("Russia's orphans feel chill of care shortage," Jan. 12).

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There is one major difference I noted in the Russian versus the US system. It was noted that the Russian cost of about $75 each month to care for a child was the same in institutions and in foster families, and that it is roughly equal to one month's wage. In San Diego County, the cost of housing children at the Children's Center (a government facility which acts as a holding center for children before they are placed in foster care) is about $6,000 per month, while the average foster parent reimbursement is about $400 a month, which is less than the cost of day care or the cost to board a dog in a kennel.

Linda Bargmann Escondidio, Calif.

Bringing up gamblers

In "For many teens, gambling starts at home" (Jan. 7), the president of the American Gaming Association talks about the industry's need to "demonstrate our dedication to fighting problem gambling and to eliminating underage gambling altogether." However, in my recent grading of "My Favorite Vacation" essays written by eighth grade students, I encountered many students whose favorite vacation was in Las Vegas. The most telling was the girl whose parents gave her and her brother $100 each to spend in the "young people's room."

Part of the casino, in this room children play games to win coupons exchangeable for prizes. That may not meet the legal definition of gambling, but it certainly is a powerful conditioning method. Perhaps, like the tobacco companies, the gambling interests are saying one thing but promoting another.

Karl Smith Richmond, Calif.

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to

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