Utah Education Association officials say it is time for the state's largest teacher union to become more directly involved in child advocacy issues.

The UEA House of Delegates will consider several "children in crisis" issues during its annual fall meeting, Nov. 3 at Payson High School, association President Lily Eskelsen said Wednesday.Too many Utah children and teenagers live in poverty, have no health care, are victims of sexual abuse and neglect, use alcohol and drugs, drop out of school and even turn to suicide, UEA officials said.

The 436-member House of Delegates, the legislative body representing the UEA's approximately 16,000 members, will consider how the labor organization can become more involved in "long-term action plans" to deal with at least some of those issues, Eskelsen said.

The Utah Legislature has set up several task force groups to study potential programs for at-risk children. Teachers have been included in those groups, she said.

"We have very high hopes for it," Eskelsen said.

The House of Delegates also is scheduled to "activate" the UEA Children at Risk Foundation, established within the past year. The foundation, funded by UEA membership dues, will provide grant money for programs for at-risk students, she said.

One way teachers can help with the problems of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, teen suicide and students dropping out before graduation "is to help raise their self-esteem," Eskelsen said.

"Students with low self-esteem, those looking for an escape," are more prone to turn to drugs and alcohol, drop out of school or look outside their families for love, she said.

Schools and teachers can be partners with parents, the community and government in finding solutions to those problems, Eskelsen said.

The House of Delegates also will consider a proposal to nearly double the $10 annual voluntary contribution from its members to the UEA Political Action Committee, raising the recommended fee to $18 a year.

The panel also will vote on whether to increase the annual dues of retired UEA members from $1 to $5.