State's top child welfare official to leave for New Jersey

Nevada's administrator of Child and Family Services will leave in mid-July to take control of the New Jersey state child welfare system, a program that has recently been under intense scrutiny following high-profile deaths of children under its care.

Ed Cotton, head of the Nevada system for the past 18 months, expects to begin his new job July 15. The New Jersey department has recently seen a shakedown following the January death of a 7-year-old Newark boy whose mummified body was found in a plastic storage container.

A state family services supervisor who managed care for the boy and his two young brothers was suspended as an investigation began into department procedures.

The New Jersey position has been vacant since July 2002. Cotton will oversee 5,400 state employees, compared with the 900 in Nevada. He said he is looking forward to working directly through the state to help children -- a different system than in Nevada, where the state department works with counties who work with children, Cotton said.

"It's a much bigger system and it really focuses on child protection," Cotton said. "They're very concerned about how their workers are handling (the recent crisis)."

Cotton said child safety has always been a primary aim for him. He developed a "safety assessment" system as deputy director of the state system in Illinois, where he worked for 22 years before assuming the Nevada post.

Prior to his work in state systems, Cotton worked for a private child welfare agency from 1975 to 1979 and as a junior high school teacher for two years.


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