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CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY GROUP UNVEILS WISH LIST

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Standing beside the state Christmas tree in the Capitol Rotunda, officials of a children's advocacy group detailed the $7 million wish list they will present to the 1990 Legislature.

The seven items that Utah Children want from lawmakers range from $357,000 for 10 additional child welfare workers to as much as $3 million to increase state services to handicapped infants and toddlers."We can't sacrifice anything," said Irene Fisher, president of the organization's board of trustees, which compiled the list last month. "This list should be longer, not shorter."

The items on the list are, however, competing with the wants and needs of every other state-funded program. Advocates for nearly all of them have said they deserve more money now that the state's economy is doing well.

The most vocal demands for a boost in funding have come from the state's teachers, who staged a statewide walkout last fall and have promised a strike vote if they don't get what they want.

Fisher said basic needs, such as medical care, shelter and food need to be taken care of for all of the state's children before they can benefit from improvements in education.

"These are not education vs. social service issues," Fisher said. "There are many children in the state who will not be able to take advantage of an education."

Utah Children is a non-profit organization that represents poor and otherwise disadvantaged children.

The needs identified by Utah Children also include an approximate $800,000 increase in funding to the state's medically needy program; and $859,000 to boost welfare payments by 4 percent.

Other needs were $375,000 for 15 support staff members for child welfare workers, $236,000 to increase foster-care provider payments and $1 million for mental health programs for children.

Making these investments now, the organization contends, will help save taxpayers from supporting the vulnerable children as adults through welfare payments or imprisonment.

After Utah Children officials released their legislative wish list, several children accompanying them opened up brightly wrapped Christmas packages.

The packages were supposed to represent what the group hoped to get from the Legislature. Each contained a box within a box, which frustrated the children until they finally reached the treats inside.