Family Programs Worth The County's InvestmentAs parents with young children living in Lake Ridge, my husband and I struggle. We both work full time to afford our mortgage, health insurance, car payments and utility bills. Working, commuting and parenting are very difficult, and often we need a break so we don't take the stress out on our kids. Most parents feel that way.

Some parents' stresses are even greater -- substance abuse, mental health issues, employment instability, single parenting and a history of violence. These stressors can lead parents to lose control and do things they regret. These parents are trying to be good parents, but they face great odds. My husband and I are lucky. We have family that will fly in to help us when we can't listen to the baby crying any more and feel ourselves losing it. Not all families have a support system, and some families need much more.

Healthy Families has existed in Prince William County since 1998 and has served many of our friends and neighbors who are parenting children younger than 5. The program identifies families that are the most stressed and at high risk of abusing or neglecting their children. Child abuse and neglect are preventable; research has proved that we can stop the cycle of violence by working with families before it starts. The program provides a home visitor, someone to educate parents on their child's development, listen when they're frustrated, direct them to community resources for services and check on them weekly. Not only does Healthy Families work, it's a good investment. It can save up to $9 for every dollar invested.

Healthy Families is a public-private partnership, funded by private foundations, business donors, and state and local governments. The Prince William Board of County Supervisors wants to cut funding for Healthy Families and many other programs. How come we can afford a new state-of-the-art county building but can't afford prevention programs? Why can we afford to donate land for the Potomac Nationals' new stadium but we can't afford to support parents who ask for help? Our elected officials are putting material things (roads, buildings) before the health and well-being of children.

As a community, let's not just invest in schools and police, which can do only so much to keep children safe. Let's invest in parents. Let's help them before their children's hearts or bodies are hurt and they end up in foster care, juvenile detention, the hospital or, God forbid, the morgue.

Many of us moved to Prince William County because it is family-friendly. Let's be a community that is friendly to all families, not just the lucky ones.

Julie Shuell


Fitness Center's Cost Doesn't Affect RaisesThursday's article in the Prince William Extra ["Many Question $37 Million Center as County Schools Face Budget Deficit"] made me see red.

In this article, a reference was made in the third paragraph that the school system's new central office building will be equipped with a fitness room and this "is being built as Prince William teachers, already the lowest-paid among the major Northern Virginia districts are to get their most meager raises in years" in the 2008 budget.

This gives the impression that teachers could get bigger raises if they didn't have to build this building. Wrong, wrong and more wrong! To me, this fitness room has nothing to do with teacher raises. The cost of the new building is being paid out of bond funds spread over 20 years and not the school budget this year or next.

Readers who do not know how school and county buildings are paid for will get the impression that a fitness room and the new building are more important than teacher raises.

Finally, toward the end of the article, a discussion on how buildings are financed is brought out by school officials, but by then the damage was done as many people do not read articles all the way through.

In addition, more businesses are encouraging their employees to join fitness centers, and many are putting fitness rooms in their buildings. There was a report on the nightly news the other day on how businesses have cut down on sick leave as more people are healthier by using their fitness centers to stay in shape.

Joe Romeo