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The Los Angeles Police Department, which pioneered a widely copied drug-education program for elementary- and junior-high-school students, has created an umbrella group to oversee similar programs across the nation.

Under the program, known as Drug-Abuse Resistance Education (dare), police officers visit classrooms to tell students how to identify drugs and their harmful effects. Since it began in 1983, the program has been replicated in 398 cities in 31 states.

"What began as a local program became so successful that it has spread across the country," Sgt. Jerry Scott, a spokesman for the program, said last week. "We were con6cerned about its integrity. We want to be sure that dare taught in Alabama is the same as dare taught in Los Angeles."

In addition, Sergeant Scott said, the national umbrella group--known as dare America--will use funds from local and federal sources to train police officers who want to start new programs.

The power of public-assistance programs to rescue families with children from poverty has declined sharply in this decade, according to a new study.

The number of families with children falling below the poverty line has increased by 35 percent since 1979, the report says, and one-third of that rise can be attributed to the declining impact of such benefit programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

The report, based on an analysis of census data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research group, found that the number of poor families with children increased from 4.1 million in 1979 to 5.5 million in 1986.

States have failed to increase benefits to keep up with inflation, the study found, especially in the afdc program. Benefits for a family of four with no other income dropped by an average of 18.5 percent in most states, when adjusted for inflation.

If noncash benefits such as food stamps and housing subsidies are taken into account, the decline in the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs has been even more pronounced, according to the analysis.

The group hit hardest by the decline, the report says, has been poor, female-headed families with children.

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