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Tuesday, December 16, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fighting For Kids Unable To Fight For Themselves

MENTION the name Gogerty and most people around the region think of Bob, the savvy political consultant. But another Gogerty, Bob's older brother Pat, has given tirelessly to the community for decades and now deserves his own public plaudits.

Gogerty retires in March as executive director of Childhaven, the state's premier organization for treating the youngest victims of child abuse and neglect. Of course, a capable successor will be appointed who'll carry the program forward.

Before the torch passes, though, the community ought to recognize how much Gogerty is Childhaven and Childhaven is Gogerty. As Times reporter Carey Quan Gelernter noted in a recent story, he created a model program that makes substantive improvements in the lives of troubled kids.

Gogerty knows about miserable childhoods. His alcoholic father beat him; his fortune-teller mother dumped him in foster care. Inspired by his own life narrative and blessed with strong political connections, he marshaled the ideas, resources and follow-through to help hundreds of kids in similar straits.

Indeed, for most of his life, he has been trying to answer one question: Why does one child, growing up in tough circumstances, become a productive adult, while another lashes out in violence and goes astray?

Childhaven's therapeutic child care - healthy meals, transportation along with speech, physical and play therapy - is a starting point.

A long-term study tracked 60 children, half of whom randomly received Childhaven services, half of whom received services provided by the state. Twelve years later, Childhaven clients, now teenagers, were much less likely to be angry or in trouble with the law. Only 3.7 percent of Childhaven kids had been arrested for serious or violent crimes, compared with 23.8 percent of the others.

As much as anyone in the community, Gogerty has changed the way people think about troubled children. Not long ago, many people dismissed child abuse as a "family problem." Today, with Childhaven services in four Puget Sound locations, most people understand child abuse is everyone's concern.

With his quiet humanity, Gogerty doesn't pretend to have all the answers. "Maybe the meaning of life," he once said, "is to live life as decently and kindly as you can."

He certainly has. And in doing so has greatly enriched the Puget Sound community.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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