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Neither federal nor state leaders have taken steps to build child-care systems that are safe, affordable, and of high quality, according to a new report issued by the Children's Defense Fund.

"We are facing a child-care crisis in this country," said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the fund, a national child-advocacy or-ganization based in Washington, D.C. "Young children are being left alone to care for themselves or in makeshift arrangements because their poor and working parents cannot find affordable child care."

"At best, there have been minor improvements in limited areas of child care during the past year," charged the group's report, "Child Care: The States' Response, A Survey of State Child Care Policies, 1983-1984."

According to the cdf, more than 9 million children under age 6 and almost 15 million children ages 6 to 13 have working mothers.

The report calls for the institution of strong national standards and financial incentives to states to monitor those standards. The report calls on the Congress to reauthorize the Head Start program and provide funds for communities to start and operate school-age child-care programs.

"Three years after the Reagan Administration cut 21 percent from the Title XX Social Services Block Grant, the major source of federal day-care funds for poor children, the states are still struggling to catch up," according to the report. "In 1984, despite increased need and higher costs, 25 states are spending less for day care than in 1981, 27 states are serving fewer children, and 15 states are paying 1981 wages to child-care workers."

Copies of the report are available for $6.75 from the Children's Defense Fund, 122 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

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