Brigham Young University law professor Cheryl B. Preston has been appointed to the panel that monitors the state's progress in improving child welfare services.
Preston was named to the three-member panel by Gov. Mike Leavitt on Monday. The Bountiful resident replaces Larry Lunt, who quit earlier this year.The panel measures how well the state's Division of Child and Family Services is complying with an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit filed against the state in 1993.
The National Center for Youth Law filed the suit on behalf of numerous children in state custody. The suit charged the state with failure to protect the abused and neglected children in its care.
Preston, 45, has been a BYU law professor since 1989. She said she hopes to bring a fresh and objective approach to the panel, which has frequently been mired in political and personal squabbles.
The group's quarterly audits often resulted in a split vote, with Lunt, a longtime Leavitt friend, siding with the state. The other two panel members, Intermountain Health Care Vice President Pamela Atkinson and child advocate Pam Rassmussen, have been much more critical of DCFS.
Atkinson is a dual appointment by Leavitt and the NCYL. Rassmussen was named by the NCYL. The third position - now filled by Preston - is reserved for the governor's appointee.
Preston, 45, has spent the bulk of her legal career in banking and finance. At BYU, she teaches primarily contract law and bankruptcy. She was formerly vice president and senior counsel for First Interstate Bank of Utah.
Preston maintains an interest in social policy and feminist legal theory, including research on how women, minorities and other traditional outsiders fare in the system.
"I've gotten into a lot of research on outsiders to the legal system, and that would certainly include children," Preston said.
The panel will issue its next report after reviewing an independent consultant's review of the state's policies, probably at the end of the month, Atkinson said.