Welch to suggest agency

By Marc Alberts

State Sen. Patrick Welch said Monday he will propose the creation of a government child advocate office this fall.

The agency would be called CHAMP—”CHildren Are our Main Priority”—and would coordinate state and federal programs affecting children. The agency would operate out of the Lt. Governor’s office, Welch said.

“A few years ago, we created a Senior Citizen Advocacy program which has worked out very well. It’s time to provide similar services for children,” said Welch, D-Peru.

Welch spokesman Donna Ginther said the office would serve a dual role as both a coordinator and an advocate for child care services. Ginther said “the biggest problem is that we don’t have a centralized one-stop shop (for child advocacy).”

Ginther said CHAMP would take existing workers out of the 18 state agencies that deal in some way with children to staff the office. This would save money and reduce the occurrence of duplicating services, she said.

CHAMP also would be used to track down and collect an estimated $8 million in fines in state child labor law violations, Ginther said. This money in turn can be used to fund CHAMP.

Kelly Turner, press secretary for Welch’s opponent in the November elections, Nancy Beasley, said Beasley had nothing against a government child advocate.

Turner said it’s hard to endorse a bill “until we see something on paper and we can judge it on its own merits.”