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David C. was 3 years old in 1988 when he was removed from his parents' home with scalds and cigarette burns. He and two brothers went to a foster home, where his older brother was killed by blunt force injuries. He was then sent to a new foster family, who said he arrived with a black eye, swollen nose and patches of hair missing. He moved to several foster homes because he acted out, including having imaginary conversations with his dead brother, but he received virtually no psychotherapy while in state custody.

David C. became the unseen face of one of child-friendly Utah's deepest failures. A child-advocacy group from California sued the state of Utah in 1992 on behalf of David C. and 16 other foster children who had faced similar neglect and abuse in what was then Utah's wholly inadequate Child Protective Services Division.

The lawsuit, David C. vs. Leavitt, led to 15 years of federal court monitoring of Utah's system. It wasn't until the end of 2008 that U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell deemed the state's system to be adequate in protecting children.

David C. would be about 30 years old today. State officials don't know where he is, but they do know where to find the other party named in that lawsuit. Former Gov. Mike Leavitt's 1992 election coincided with the lawsuit's filing, and this week he tried to make it clear to Utah legislators that they don't want to see anything like the David C. lawsuit come Utah's way again.

Specifically, Leavitt appeared before the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee to champion the private, non-profit Utah Foster Care Foundation, which was created by the state as part of the lawsuit settlement. Leavitt and other state leaders encouraged private donors to set up the foundation with $2.5 million in reserves. In the years since, the foundation has consistently hit the state's goal to find and train about 500 foster families per year to replace other families who leave the system. The public/private partnership has become a model for other states.

The state has been paying the foundation for this service, but the amount has been essentially flat since 2004 and hasn't covered costs. The foundation says it can't go on past the end of this fiscal year (June 30) unless the state can increase its compensation from about $2.7 million to $3.1 million. The extra $400,000 annually is needed to keep the foundation from completely depleting its reserves and closing up shop.

As Leavitt told the committee, there is no competition for this contract. If the money doesn't come and the foundation closes, it will be that much harder to keep Utah from falling back to those dark days of David C.'s childhood.