A state panel looking into child welfare in Clark County has issued a preliminary set of recommendations on how to improve services.
The blue ribbon committee, chaired by Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta, hopes to have its proposals implemented quickly in the coming months.
"Some of what we discovered in the early stages of looking at the system as it currently exists is that an awful lot of the parts and pieces, if you will, of the reform, can be done almost immediately, with little or no cost to any of the stakeholders," Saitta told KNPR's State of Nevada.
One such recommendation was creating a public service campaign to inform people about the dangers of child abuse and neglect. Although such projects have been undertaken in Nevada before, Saitta said, the type of campaign the panel recommends is different.
"The campaign that we're talking about from this commission has much more to do with meaningful, consistent public awareness," she said. "It's not the generic child abuse and neglect. It can, in fact, include things like mental health, or being able to recognize kids who are in a difficult situation who might not have come to the attention of the system."
Another proposed reform included spreading out child welfare cases through the criminal justice system in such a way that a single judge would be assigned to a family's entire case history. In other words, a child and their parents or guardians would only have to deal with one judge throughout the duration of the time their cases are in the system.
Saitta said this method will help the judiciary keep better track and have a greater understanding of causes and incidents that bring people into the child welfare system in the first place.
The committee hopes that its work will influence and shape child welfare reform throughout Nevada and the rest of the country.
"By looking at the largest system in the state as our starting point, we took a pretty big bite of the apple," Saitta said. "But, by creating what we anticipate these reforms will create, we not only will hope that the information and the reform efforts that we create in Clark County can be used throughout the state, but I would be happy if this commission became a national model for other jurisdictions throughout the country to do business better."
Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta
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