December 18, 2001 11:00 pm

Youngsters in Union County are not getting into trouble with the law as often as their counterparts elsewhere in Oregon, but other aspects of the latest Children First for Oregon report are disturbing, including the frequency of child abuse and neglect.

In its annual report, called Growing up in Oregon, Children First said the number of juvenile arrests went down in Union County in 2000-01. There were 232 children under 18 arrested during the year, a rate of 38.4 per 1,000. That was an improvement over 1999-2000 and 13 percent better than the state average.

Wed like to believe that most of the children in the county are being taught the importance of honesty and consideration for the rights of others and are warned about the risks of alcohol and drug use and abuse. Values like these are taught first in the home. But community organizations, such as youth groups, schools and churches, also teach values.

The alarming news is that Children First reports that many children in our county continue to be victims of criminal abuse and neglect. The study showed that 124 of our children were identified as victims, or 20.6 per 1,000 population. Thats much higher than the state average of 12.2 per 1,000.

A two-pronged approach to stopping child abuse is needed. This involves providing child-protection information to young parents, even well before their first child arrives. The other prong is a firm resolve on the part of law enforcement and child-protection agencies to halt abuse in its tracks.

Sound interesting?

Credit card companies, and even the government itself, are eager and happy to collect interest on accounts or taxes that have not been paid in full.

People who overpay their Mastercard or Visa card or pay more in taxes to the federal or state government than what was due are seldom, if ever, rewarded for their contribution

Oregon Trail Electric Cooperatives recent return of surplus funds to Eastern Oregon ratepayers is the exception, not the rule.

Wouldnt it be wonderful if the U.S. and state governments gave us an interest payment every time they issued us a refund check? The interest rate might not be as high as the amount the government charges, but taxpayers should be given a little extra back for the weeks or months that they have loaned the government their money.

Credit card companies, too, could give us a bonus when we overpay an account. If Visa charges us 12 percent in interest on carried-over amounts, they could pay us half that rate for up to a maximum overpayment of $100.

The lending companies would gain some good will if they gave customers a few extra dollars when they mess up and overpay their bill.