By NATALEE CAPPS
Cheryl B. Preston, a law professor at BYU, was appointed Monday to a three-member panel responsible for documenting the state’s improvement in the child protection system.
The panel was instituted through a settlement with the National Center for Youth Law of San Francisco. The NCYL represented child plaintiff’s in Utah’s system in a lawsuit in 1983. The NCYL argued Child Protection Services was not adequate in its’ care for abused children and that accurate records were not being kept.
Gov. Mike Leavitt announced Preston’s appointment Monday. She will replace Larry Lunt, who left the panel earlier this year due to time constraints, according to the Associate Press.
Preston feels she can bring an objective outlook to the panel.
“I am a good problem solver and negotiator,” Preston said. “I feel that I will be good at looking reasonably and fairly at the data presented.”
The panel has been controversial in the past. Questions regarding the progress of the state, the method of data collection, and the adequacy of the review panel have been raised by concerned parties.
Randy Ripplinger, Public Information Officer for the Department of Human Services, felt the recent changes in appointments to the monitoring panel would solve any problems faced in the past.
“What we have sought for all along is a collaborative relationship between us and the monitoring panel and the NCYL,” Ripplinger said. “The monitoring panel serves a very vital function and we feel very good about the new appointees.”
Preston said she is confident that with the new changes to the panel there will be significant progress toward resolving the issues involved in the lawsuit.
“We have an outside auditor compiling all the data and we have high expectations for the work he will accomplish” she said. “The state has also worked hard to help us with our efforts.”
The settlement requires the panel to work through August of 1998 when a federal judge will review the settlement to determine if the state has adequately complied. If parties cannot agree or compromise at that time, litigation might be reinstated in a federal court, Preston said.
Preston has been a law professor at BYU since 1989. She teaches classes in contracts, bankruptcy, and banking law and does research in gender and family issues.
Preston is the state’s appointee to the panel. The other members include Pam Rasmussen who is appointed by the NCYL and Pamela Atkinson who is appointed by both the state and the NCYL.