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CHILD WELFARE SERIES APPRECIATED

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On behalf of vulnerable children of Utah, we are writing to thank the Deseret News for its recent four-part series (Nov. 29-Dec. 2) regarding Utah's child welfare program.

The investigation and the analysis by reporter Lois Collins adds a great deal to the current dialogue about Utah's responsibility to allegedly abused and neglected children as well as the state's procedures in protecting those found to be abused or neglected.As a statewide child advocacy organization with a long-standing concern about the state's child welfare system, we believe the Deseret News series allows its readers to obtain a firsthand view of the condition of many vulnerable children and the manner in which the Department of Human Services enforces state laws and policies to protect these children.

The series is an important step in assisting members of the public and decisionmakers to obtain information and to form opinions about where services are falling short.

We encourage the Deseret News to provide full coverage of information and recommendations that may emerge from the National Center for Youth Law's investigation and, separately, the audit being conducted by the Utah Legislature.

Utah's elected leaders can use this information to further illuminate their assessment of present programs and to design more appropriate interventions for children at risk of long-term abuse and neglect.

We believe the coming months, with a new state administration under development, will be critical for our child welfare system. We commend Gov.-elect Mike Leavitt for his careful review of administrative leadership in the Department of Human Services.

Without question, Human Services officials in his administration will be challenged to respond to findings emerging from the current legislative audit and the independent review by the National Center for Youth Law.

With 37 percent of its population age 18 or below, Utah faces both a burden and a challenge in aiding kids whose families are failing them. But Utah's problems are manageable problems if the state has the political will to work for solutions and remedies.

Rosalind J. McGee

Executive director

Utah Children