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Originally published Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 10:32 AM

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The bonds between parent and child ought to be supported

It may not always be possible, but Washington state child-welfare authorities are rightly pushing in abuse and neglect cases for a reunification of child and parent.

CHILD-welfare officials appear to get it. Taking neglected children away from their parents is a last-ditch effort that ought to be accompanied by an action plan for reuniting families.

Encouraging signs come from King County Youth Services and other child-welfare agencies around the state that recently spotlighted a handful of dependency cases that ended with children returned to their families.

Protecting children in danger of neglect or abuse is one of the state's most important duties. It must be done with a goal toward keeping families intact.

The threshold for giving up on parents and taking away their children permanently should remain high. Emotional bonds between parent and child are appropriately strong and ought to be supported. People can change; parents can learn to do better.

Compelling examples are found in Seattle Times reporter Christine Clarridge's account of King County's family-reunification efforts. For example, Elizabeth Anderson, a 28-year-old mother of a 6-year-old boy and 2-year-old twins was already overwhelmed when the manager of her apartment reported her to the state for living in unsanitary conditions.

With her children's father incarcerated and little in the way of family support, child-welfare authorities appropriately stepped in. Anderson took steps to bring order to her life. She got her children back and a judge recently released the family from court supervision.

Thankfully, this happens more times than not. Of hundreds of children removed from their families each year in Washington state because of abuse and neglect, two-thirds are ultimately returned to their families.

Kudos to the judges, lawyers, parents' attorneys and guardians ad litem — who represent a child's best interests — working with families to solve problems and eventually determine if continued involvement by authorities is necessary.

Improving the child-welfare system comes via large and small changes. Family reunions are a crucial part of the effort.

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