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Focus on Child Care Sought in Campaign

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The Children's Defense Fund is planning a series of activities designed to focus national attention on child-care issues during the Presidential election campaign.

Judith H. Weitz, the cdf's director of state and local affairs, said the nonprofit advocacy group is scheduling meetings with the Presidential contenders and will release two publications in the next month outlining child-care policy issues for citizens and legislators.

Although she said the activities were "an extension of [c.d.f.'s] normal public-education work," Ms. Weitz noted that this would be the first time the group had raised its concerns with Presidential candidates.

"One of the reasons we view this as a ripe moment" for such an effort, she said, "is because it is the first Presi4dential campaign in a long time in which an incumbent is not running."

The nation, she added, is at a "turning point" in addressing its child-care dilemma.

In its annual "State Child Care Factbook," the c.d.f. reported this month that child-care funding for low-income families fell below 1981 levels in 28 states last year.

The group attributed the spending decline to inflation and "severe budget cuts" in the Social Services Block Grant program, which provides federal subsidies for child care.

The report notes that even some states that have increased their child-care funding have thousands of eligible children on waiting lists.

To help bridge the gap between child-care supply and demand, the c.d.f. has joined a group of about 100 organizations backing the $2.5-billion "act for better child care" legis8lation, introduced in the House and Senate in November.

To add fuel to the election-year debate on children's issues, the organization plans by mid-February to release a questionnaire for citizens entitled, "What every American should be asking political leaders in 1988." It will also release a comprehensive briefing book on the status of American children for legislators, policymakers, and child advocates.

Ms. Weitz said demographic and economic trends--such as the increasing number of voters of childbearing age and the need in many families for both parents to work--will give the issue a new "salience" among candidates and the electorate in 1988. Legislators, she said, must address the child-care shortage "if we're serious about providing opportunities for people to move off of welfare and into work."

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