John Johnson's article on the lawsuits between Children of the Night and Don Austin falls into the common trap of making something appear to be something else by naming it so.
More than 12 years ago, Lois Lee formed Children of the Night to help the child prostitutes she had become aware of through her research for her doctoral degree. She built an organization and is about to open a 24-bed shelter. Her commitment and energy have allowed her to raise funds for this vital work solely through private donations.
The Times article characterized Don Austin as a "nonprofit organization dedicated to helping teen-age runaways." He is apparently not considered so by the social service community; he has no known financial support or professional staff; he has no known competence or professional training in working with pre-adolescent and adolescent abandoned and abused children. By his own admission, as quoted in The Times, he is made to feel unwelcome by charitable organizations. No other agencies refer children to him.
While we find fault with The Times' characterization of Don Austin as a credible "charitable organization," the more important issue is the fact that there exist no laws to regulate the entrance of individuals into the "child-saving" business. This case only spotlights the fact that a serious review of laws regulating the formation of charities in the child services field is long overdue. That might have provided The Times with a better theme for a situation such as we find ourselves in than the misleading "competing organizations" approach the editors allowed.
DR. ROBERT CHRISTIE
Children of the Night