The Inquirer should be commended for its continued coverage of breakdowns in the child-welfare system in Philadelphia. But coverage of problems with the Department of Human Services and its contractors, such as Multiethnic Behavioral Health Inc., has ignored a key responsible party in the oversight of vulnerable children: the board of directors of each and every nonprofit agency that receives DHS funding. Beyond and behind the chief executive officer of any nonprofit should be a fully accountable board whose job is to hire/fire the executive, watch the money, and ensure at least a minimum level of quality in programs.

Unfortunately, too many nonprofit CEOs view their boards as a necessary evil and spoon-feed their directors, who, in turn, act as little more than rubber stamps rather than the watchdogs they are intended to be. And too few funders probe deeply enough, and thus they miss the big picture.

We need stronger governmental oversight of nonprofit boards; it is key to stopping more tragic child deaths and ensuring taxpayer dollars are invested successfully. All funders - whether private donors, benevolent foundations or government agencies - have their own methods of gauging how active, engaged and serious a board is about its responsibility. They can review documentation to ensure the board has been actively involved in agency budgets and audits. They can also review diversity and turnover on the board, and they can ensure that officers and directors have term limits and consistently attend meetings.

Government agencies may request evidence showing that the board routinely reviews program quality, contract and agency program goals, and employee professional standards. They could even call for program evaluations when necessary. However, government funders generally do very little of this. Board oversight is often limited to collecting items on a checklist, such as tax documents, board-member lists, minutes, and a board resolution or two.

One way to improve oversight of contractors is for city and state agencies to adopt much more thorough and professional governance reviews. Perhaps they should look to the United Way's "Promising Practices" model, an impressive template for fostering accountability at the top.

Gloria Guard
People's Emergency Center

Lax at La Salle

Re "Charges dropped in La Salle rape case," Dec. 5:

I am a La Salle University alumnus, Class of 1949.

While I was a student at La Salle, a number of us protested to the school's administration about the preferential treatment given to basketball players. We felt that this practice and the commercialization of the school's sports program obscured the rightful mission of a university: serious scholarship. We were ignored by La Salle's administration.

It is depressing to learn that La Salle continues preferential treatment for its athletes. It is even more ghastly that the issue involves possible failure to report alleged rape by the privileged class at La Salle: basketball players.

Alumni should band together and demand that La Salle's administration reform its unethical, if not illegal, practices. Until this is done, we should refrain from any donations to the university.

Jack Nolan