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A $1.1-Million Effort Set For 'Latchkey' Children

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Washington--The American Home Economics Association and the Whirlpool Foundation last week launched a $1.1-million project designed to make the after-school hours safer and more productive for schoolchildren who return to empty homes each day.

"Project Home Safe," unveiled at a press conference hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services, will include a three-year effort to train home economists to work with schools, social-service agencies, and other community groups to improve after-school programs for so-called latchkey children.

"We believe that Project Home Safe is the most ambitious and comprehensive program ever to address the welfare of latchkey children," said Sally Koblinsky, director of the project for the ahea

Recognizing that "many children will remain in self-care before organized programs become available," she said, home economists in the project will be trained to teach children health and safety procedures and to help them to become involved in productive after-school activities.

The project also will establish a national resource center and a toll-free telephone hotline for information on child-care programs. It will include a study of the ramifications of latchkey arrangements and the development of standards for administrators and parents on child-care programs, personnel, curricula, and facilities.

Don M. Newman, undersecretary of hhs, praised the project as a model private-sector effort that will help local, state, and federal policymakers better address the latchkey phenomenon. Although the federal government is not providing financial support for the project, Mr. Newman said the department would incorporate findings in its own database "so that any policy recommendations will be strengthened by our joint efforts."

Stephen Upton, president of the Whirlpool Foundation, said his organization is underwriting the project as part of a campaign to fund a "national program that would address a key social issue facing this country."

According to Ms. Koblinski, the project will train about 100 home economists in Arkansas, California, Michigan, Ohio, and the District of Columbia during its first year and expand its training efforts in succeeding years.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are between 2 million and 6 million latchkey children. Ms. Koblinsky said that only about 4 percent of all schools operate after-school programs and that there are ''not nearly enough" other programs to meet the demand.--dg

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