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As the source of direct and indirect support for more than 14,000 programs, churches represent the largest providers of day-care services nationwide, according to a survey conducted by the National Council of Churches.

In the largest sampling of its kind, the council used a grant from the Carnegie Corporation to fund a survey of nearly 88,000 churches, according to June R. Rogers, assistant director of the council's child-advocacy project.

Of the 25,000 churches that responded, she said, more than 14,000 were affiliated with day-care programs that serve a total of nearly 500,000 children. The survey did not include programs affiliated with Roman Catholic churches or the Southern Baptist Convention.

Ms. Rogers said the council conducted a second, follow-up survey of 3,333 program directors and found that 51 percent of the programs affiliated with churches receive "massive subsidies" from the church. About 41 percent of the program directors "named the church as a source of child-care funding, particularly scholarships," according to Ms. Rogers.

The survey also found that 18 percent of the programs served only families with incomes under $10,000, Ms. Rogers said.

Prior to the survey, church officials were unaware of the extent of the church's involvement in day-care programs, Ms. Rogers said. "We really feel very strongly that the churches have a role in insuring quality child care," she said. "The important task was to raise consciousness of the church itself regarding child care."

The survey, she said, will be used as the basis for developing a policy on day-care programs.

With the goal of preventing some of the physical and mental problems that afflict many poor children, the Ford Foundation has awarded $3.1 million to programs in the U.S. and abroad.

The grants, announced late last month, are the first to be awarded in the foundation's "Fair Start" program. Foundation officials expect to award about $6 million by the end of the two-year program.

A basic objective of the program, according to foundation president Franklin A. Thomas, is "to provide parents with knowledge of good nutritional and health habits so they will be better able to take care of themselves, and so their children will not begin life with significant deficits."

"Poor health and chronic hunger and malnutrition not only reduce the survival chances of the very young, but also diminish their later capacity to learn, work, cope with stress, and function in society," Mr. Thomas said in his statement.

The emphasis on prevention, Mr. Thomas noted, is highly appropriate in this era of "huge medical costs and cutbacks in federal programs."

The recipients of the grants include a migrant-health project in Florida, a child-welfare project in New York City, and a program for mothers and children in Appalachia. The recipients also include projects in four other nations.

The number of elected black officials in American education dropped from 1,267 in 1981 to 1,256 in 1982, according to the Joint Center for Political Studies.

The decline was the first recorded since the nonprofit research organization initiated its annual count of elected officials in 1970. In that year, there were only 362 elected black education leaders in the country.

Among the 1,256 black officials identified in 1982, 1,203 were on local school boards, eight fewer than the year before. Ten worked in state education agencies (seven from the Virgin Islands), down from 14 in 1981; 39 were on college and university boards, up from 32 last year; and 14 were in unspecified education positions, four more than in 1981.

The black education officials are among 5,160 black elected leaders nationwide. They make up 1 percent of all elected officials in the country.

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