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Children's Needs Said Key To Success of Welfare Law

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The new federal welfare law, if properly implemented, has the potential to improve the economic, health, and educational status of poor children, a report from the New York-based nonprofit group Foundation for Child Development concludes.

But the report cautions that policymakers at both the state and national level must take into account the needs of children when drafting their plans for implementing the law.

The Family Support Act, which was adopted by the Congress in 1988, requires, with few exceptions, that all welfare recipients with children over the age of 3 take part in an education or training program, provided child care is available.

The law also offers "transitional" benefits for former welfare recipients who become employed. Under the measure, parents can still qualify for federally-funded child care and Medicaid benefits for their entire family up to a year after they become employed.

These new federal requirements, the report says, offer new opportunities for providing services for the children of welfare recipients. But it warns that because the law is generally seen as a vehicle for promoting adult employment, the interests of children may be overlooked.

Child care, which will determine whether a parent will be able to participate in education or training programs, should be of the highest quality, the report asserts. The new state-created welfare programs that are required by the federal law should establish procedures to ensure that children are placed in child-care situations that meet their needs, it says.

State and federal policymakers should also begin to increase assistance to programs that enable the working poor to get child care and health insurance for their children, the study recommends.

Demand for these programs, it says, will increase as newly-employed welfare parents exhaust their transitional benefits. Without these state and federal supports, many children will be without health insurance or adequate child care, the report predicts.

The new education and training programs should include, according to the report, a parent-education component. And state welfare programs should offer case management and service for the entire family, not just for the unemployed adult.

Free copies of the report, "One Program, Two Generations," are available from the fcd, 345 East 46th St., New York, N.Y. 10017-3562.--ef

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