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Early Years

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Two-thirds of the elementary- and middle-school principals responding to a new survey said they thought public schools should provide before- and after-school child care; only 22 percent said they now offer such programs.

Most who responded to the National Association of Elementary School Principals' survey agreed that changes in the family had made the need for supervision beyond school hours an imperative.

But about a third said the responsibility for providing such services lies with parents and other community agencies, not with the schools.

Those in favor of school-based programs said they improved student performance and made fuller use of public buildings; those opposed cited inadequate facilities and management problems.

The Adolph Coors Company has helped launch a community campaign for such school-based programs in Jefferson County, Colo.

Employee concerns about the availability of adequate child care prompted the firm to organize meetings between representatives from the schools and from child-care and community organizations.

The group hopes eventually to establish programs in or around all of the district's 118 elementary schools, said Nancy Colligan, Coors' employee-communications representative. Programs are now in place in about a quarter of the schools.

If the effort is successful, it would be one of the largest school-based programs in the country, according to Dale Fink, project associate for the School-Age Child Care Program at Wellesley College's Center for Research on Women.

According to a new survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 11 percent of workplaces with 10 or more employees offer help with child-care arrangements. But only 2 percent sponsor day-care centers.

In addition to the 25,000 employers that provide day care, 3 percent, or 35,000, supply financial assistance for child care, and another 6 percent offer referral or counseling services.

Establishments with 250 or more employees were more likely to provide child-care benefits than smaller businesses, the survey found, and government agencies were more apt than private firms to offer such services.

Three-fifths of the workplaces surveyed cited policies that help parents attend to child-care needs, including flexible work schedules and leave policies.

In what is being billed as the most comprehensive profile of child-care professionals in the last decade, the Child Care Employee Project, an Oakland, Calif., research and advocacy group, is conducting an 18-month study examining the

characteristics, training, pay, and working conditions of child-care employees.

The National Child Care Staffing Study, launched last November, will study staff policies and preparation in 45 centers in five cities: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, and Seattle.

The National Conference of State Legislatures plans to provide technical help to six states in the process of establishing or expanding early-childhood-education and child-care programs.

Under a $500,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the n.c.s.l.'s Child Care/Early-Childhood Education Project will assist officials in Alaska, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and Vermont in launching a variety of early-childhood programs over the next two years.

The help will involve legislative initiatives and coordination among agencies.

The Public Television Outreach Alliance is planning a series of broadcasts on child-care issues to coincide with the National Association for the Education of Young Children's "Week of the Young Child," April 10 to 16.

In addition to "Who Cares For the Children?", a one-hour special to be aired April 13, "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," "The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour," "Modern Maturity," and "Tony Brown's Journal" will address child-care themes.

The "Child Care America" campaign will also include a teleconference with business representatives, child-care experts, and members of Congress, and various community activities organized by public- broadcasting stations and naeyc affiliates.

Due partly to a lack of health-insurance coverage, about a third of all pregnant women receive inadequate prenatal care, a new report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute concludes.

"Blessed Events and the Bottom Line: Financing Maternity Care in the United States" reports that 15 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 do not have insurance plans that cover maternity care; 555,000 women give birth each year without any kind of insurance.

Women who receive poor prenatal care are more likely to have premature and low-birth-weight babies, the report notes, a trend most pronounced among poor, teen-age, black, Hispanic, poorly educated, and unmarried women.

According to a report from the Children's Defense Fund, the percentage of low-birth-weight babies and the infant-mortality rate among nonwhites rose for the first time in 20 years in 1985.

That could have been prevented, it says, with "adequate, cost-effective health care and nutrition."--dg

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