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Viewpoint: County Citizen Review Panel reaches out

Two members of the Washington County Citizen Review Panel Dani Horan (Co-Chair) and Mary Nelson will be leaving June 30, 2009, after fulfilling six years of volunteer service.

On the behalf of the children and families of Washington County, I wanted to publicly thank them for volunteering their time and their many contributions and dedication to Washington County.

Citizen members are now being sought for this citizen advisory group. The panel meets monthly and has seven members that serve an initial two-year term.

They are eligible to serve a total of three two-year terms. As one of the charter members of the panel when it started in 1999, I know personally of its mission and work.

A recent report issued by the Citizen Review Panel for Washington County describes the panel's activities during 2008. The mission of the panel is "to assist the child protection system with ongoing evaluation to strive for the protection of children."

The members work with child protection staff of Washington County Community Services and the State of Minnesota.

Volunteer panel members do such activities as analyze trends, provide a citizen's perspective and insights of the child protection system, recommend and advocate for needed changes and resources, promote cooperation among community resources and child protection service agencies and increase community understanding and investments in protecting all children.

The panel has also examined child protection policies, procedures, practices and outcomes of the state and county child protection agencies.

Panel members may gather information through interviews and observations, and review records, case files and reports. The members prepare and make available to the public an annual report containing a summary of the panel's activities and recommendations to improve the child protection system.

This last year, the panel has focused on four areas: reconsideration requests in findings of child maltreatment; encouraging the involvement of the non-custodial parent in planning for children; supporting the "It's not Safe for Kids Under Eight" campaign to protect children whom might be left unsupervised; and helping older foster care children develop independent living skills and making the transition to being a successful, independent adult.

If you are interested in becoming a member, you may apply by calling Don Pelton, Washington County Community Services Supervisor, at (651) 430-6631 or e-mail

Panel members need to be residents of Washington County, complete an application process and participate in a personal interview. You may find an application on the following website: Training for new members will be offered later this summer.

Peterson is chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners.