'What do you think is underreported?"
It's a go-to question for a journalist beginning to report on a complicated field or new beat. And it's what I asked Karen Logan, manager of Child Welfare, when I first walked into the El Paso County Department of Human Services.
"The hard work that staff does," she answered.
Not a surprising response; after all, who doesn't think that they deserve praise for what they do?
However, with Child Welfare, there's a real obstacle involved in discussing its work, as we discovered through the course of our reporting.
While I was welcome to sit in on the RED Team meetings, which we profile in the cover story, I had to sign a confidentiality agreement that put a lid on much of what I could report. Specific incidents, allegations and outcomes couldn't be mentioned. It quickly became clear that much of the level-headed, thought-provoking and dedicated work conducted in these meetings could not hit print.
This is, in its way, a perfect example of Child Welfare's relationship with the public. Few of us give this group much thought. For many, it's only when the agency is implicated in the death or abuse of a child by the media. For others, it hits the radar when there's a knock at the door.
Yet every day, these workers make critical decisions that deeply impact the lives of families. Trying to understand how they operate, and make these decisions, seems just as important as reporting on the scandals.