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Survivors Can Help At-Risk Children

Children come into our world totally dependent on the adults surrounding them. Some of those adults are alcoholics or drug addicts or so filled with rage that they beat their children to death. When a child dies brutally, we are all the less for it.

Those children who survive early terrors in their homes often grow up troubled, and their trouble spills over into their classrooms, their playgrounds, the streets they walk at night, the cars they drive, the guns they carry.

That’s why troubled kids are a community problem, not just a family problem. Washington state’s Department of Social and Health Services’ Child Protective Services intervenes when agency workers believe a child is in danger. The agency’s task is nearly impossible. Should the child be removed from home? Or stay, with help?

Child Protective Services also is under constant criticism. For failing to save a child. Or for moving in too quickly on a family. And the anti-government sentiment spreading like a virus in our country has not spared this agency. For many parents who have encountered the agency, it provides an entry door for their rage.

So what to do? Gov. Mike Lowry had a good plan recently when he announced new rules guiding how kids are protected by Child Protective Services. His executive order requires the agency to get the input of “community-protection teams.” This way, workers are not making tough decisions in isolation. They can ask for advice from professionals - doctors, lawyers, psychologists and law enforcement folks.

Lowry’s executive order won’t mean much change in Spokane, where community teams have been in place since 1980. Dee Wilson, director of the agency’s caseworkers in Spokane, toted the concept with him from Colorado and is working to find volunteers to fill out more teams.

Child Protective Services doesn’t need a lot of volunteers for the teams, but, Wilson said, “we need a few of the ‘right’ people.” That means doctors, lawyers and mental health professionals - busy people already. But those interested should make room in their schedules for this community chore. There are few more important.

We urge agency managers to include on the 10- to 15-member teams someone who has been through the system. Maybe a parent who had a child taken away but successfully took the steps to bring the child home. Or perhaps a young person who once was removed from home, survived the ordeal and now thrives. These nontraditional team members would know, at a gut level, what the tough decisions mean to a young life.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board

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