Welcome steps are being taken to create legislation designed to better protect children during legal proceedings. The result would be Utah's first multi-agency center to investigate child sexual abuse cases.

The Children's Justice Center would be a place where law enforcement officials, county prosecutors, social services personnel and child psychiatrists can pool resources to investigate such cases.The bill and three related measures were introduced last week to the Judiciary Interim Committee.

It seems clear to those who have studied the issues that such a center would provide a more efficient way to investigate and prosecute sex cases, and minimize the trauma children suffer in the court system.

All the members of the Child Sexual Abuse Task Force have enthusiastically recommended this legislation.

Proposed centers in Salt Lake and Weber counties likely would operate out of a house "to make this more like a home setting for the child rather than like a police station or courtroom."

In fact, Intermountain Health Care has offered the task force a Salt Lake City home to lease for $1 a year, helping to make operating costs of the new center minimal.

Probably the most encouraging provision of all is that a child would be subject to a single interview, since all representatives from the legal system would be present.

This is desirable legislation that is long overdue in helping to alleviate the worst aspects of a highly sensitive and difficult legal problem.

Once the center is approved and operational, it should lessen the psychological stress that many children face in the bureaucratic and judicial system while being dealt with as victims of abuse.