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Guide for Care Of School-Age Children Issued

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Schools that set clear policies for their involvement in child-care programs are better equipped to offer their own high-quality programs or play "supportive roles" in serving school-age children, a new guide for policymakers concludes.

Such policies, it says, should define program goals, the roles and responsibilities of organizations involved, and income-eligibility standards for participants.

The recommendation is one of several highlighted in a report by the School-Age Child Care Project, a nonprofit research effort based at the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. The group tracks child-care policies and programs for children beyond the preschool years.

The report, which urges an expansion of efforts to serve "latchkey" children, says a lack of clear policies on program implementation can delay the initiation of such services, jeopardize access for low-income and special-needs populations, and "produce public friction and private frustration among and between" agencies.

The group said a national study of state child-care-licensing agencies it conducted in 1988 found that school-based programs made up the majority of all programs licensed exclusively for school-age children. But it noted that public schools played a much larger role "as a provider of space to other organizations" than as operators of their own services.

The study found that far more children attended programs licensed to serve a mixture of preschool and school-age children than for school-age children exclusively.

It also found that day-care centers have become "increasingly involved" in care for older children, and that independent schools, ymca's, religious groups, and commercial chains are also expanding their roles.

The Wellesley project defines "quality care" as carefully planned programs that differ from the regular school day, provide a range of activities for various age groups, stress "whole-child development," employ experienced staff members, and offer ongoing training.

The group's report calls on the federal and state governments to provide more money to help subsidize care for low- and moderate-income families, increase staff wages and benefits, and "strengthen the broad range of institutions" involved in care.

It also advocates a more uniform training curriculum for providers of school-age child-care and more research comparing the effects of unsupervised and supervised care.

In addition, it urges that:

State child-care-licensing agencies modify regulations so they are suited to school-age children.

State and school-district policies address the need for transportation to and from child care.

Local governments appoint a "broker" between agencies and match "expertise and sources of funding" with programs.

Copies of "No Time to Waste: An Action Agenda for School-Age Child Care" may be ordered for $6 each from sacc Publications, Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley, Mass. 02181.

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