what they've seen of MST, especially in its ability to make geographic issues come alive.

The Southeast Yakima Community Center serves a black community adjacent to a Hispanic community. Director Ester Huey says she sees it all the time: local kids placed into foster homes in distant towns.

"But until I saw that map, I didn't realize the breadth of the problem," she said. "You can talk to people about an issue, concern or problem, and they just don't seem to grasp it the way they do when they have a graphic in front of them."

Huey suggested MST maps could generate a new understanding, and perhaps a new willingness to help.

"When you can see that a child was taken from this particular home and placed 30 or 40 miles away, when you see all these children streaming out of the community, then you begin to understand how they become high-risk children, because the separation for them is total," she said. "We want to develop foster homes in this town, to keep those children in an area where they are familiar with their church, their school, their neighbors."

Some are concerned about the mapping idea, suggesting the visual element might prove too stark for some observers.

"It might cause some problems," said Karen Jorgenson, executive director of the National Foster Parent Association, based in Gig Harbor, Wash."If people saw that everyone was coming from one neighborhood, it could put them off at first. It might say to them: 'Hey, this is in your neighborhood,' and perhaps make them defensive rather than eager."

On balance, though, Jorgenson is optimistic about the mapping program. "We have been trying very diligently over the past several years to keep kids in their neighborhoods, to make sure they don't have to change schools," she said. "This sounds like something that would be very useful."

Cox, meanwhile, thinks these maps could change the face of social service.

For years, he says, the public has relied on paid professionals to take care of abused and neglected children. By putting geographic facts on the table, the social service world has a chance to convert the public at-large into active participants in the endeavor to care for those in need.

"We want to give them regular data on the children that come from their own communities, because the children belong to them. They belong to that community," he said.

Adam Stone  |  Contributing Writer