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An effort to better protect children in New York State made progress June 20 when the State Assembly passed a bill calling for an independent regulator. The bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Barbara Clark, would create an Office of the Child Advocate responsible for examining both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and investigating child injuries or deaths. The Child Advocate, appointed by a newly created Commission on Children consisting of experts in the field, would have the authority to pursue a civil action against the state or against care providers. He or she could also recommend changes in state policies. Similar offices in other states have led to significant reforms, such as the overhaul of correctional schools in Connecticut and the better treatment of teens with mental health needs in New Jersey. “This office would be a huge benefit to children and youths in New York,” said Mishi Faruqee, director of Juvenile Justice Project of the Correctional Association of New York. “It would be able to monitor all of the facilities they are sent to when they are away from their homes.” The bill does not yet have a Senate sponsor, but supporters are hopeful they will find one next year. [06/27/05]

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