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STAND FOR CHILDREN DAY - IDEALISTIC OR CYNICAL?

The national Stand for Children Day on June 1 should help to focus attention on the needs of the youngest Americans. But it should not be allowed to become only a soapbox for those who are lobbying for more government funding in their own selfish interest.

Children's programs - both federal and state - do need money to keep going. But rather than emphasizing increased spending, the organizers of the children's march on Washington, D.C., should focus their efforts on whether children are being shortchanged when existing monies are spent.The Heritage Foundation says more than 100 of the groups sponsoring the march are direct federal grant recipients receiving more than $392 million annually. The foundation's Government Reform Project calls the march a "cynical attempt to create another venue for groups that live off the taxpayer to lobby for more money."

Children are a silent group. They have no say in how money is allocated or spent in their behalf. The children's march should emphasize guarding and improving those programs to ensure the funds are spent wisely to meet children's needs and not merely expand the empires of bureaucrats.

In Utah in the past two years, state audits and a lawsuit brought by the National Center for Youth Law have identified problems in the state Division of Family Services. Mountains of paperwork have been produced at great cost. Careful monitoring must continue, but it's time to spend the money on providing services that children need.

Problems with the division's Moab office indicate children have not been well served there. Investigations of that office indicate it has a serious credibility problem that is hampering its ability to provide medical, emotional and educational needs of its children.

Some steps are being taken to correct the problems. The division is checking more often on the condition of children in foster care. The horror stories of children's cases being forgotten and children being abused while in state custody must be investigated and corrective action taken.

There is a need for more qualified foster families and for better follow-up on reports of possible abuse. There is a real need for adequate funding to do the job. But the effectiveness of programs for children can be improved by better management and more meticulous care.

The Stand for Children Day will be a visible call to attend to children's needs. That attention should be demanded every day in programs that now exist.