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Panel on Youths Targets 6 Areas For Examination

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Washington--A Congressionally mandated commission has targeted six areas for study over the next year as it looks for possible solutions to the plight of America's children.

The six areas were outlined in a report released last week by the National Commission on Children.

One of the areas the panel plans to examine is the need to provide educational programs for very young children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"In too many communities," said Jay Rockefeller 4th, the commission's chairman, "children are starting school unprepared to learn, and the schools they enter are often unprepared to address their special learning needs."

The commissioners will also examine the need to coordinate a variety of community services for children; poverty; the lack of health care for many children; increasing drug use among both children and adults; and the need to see that parents "give children the time and attention to ensure a good start in life."

The interim report, the product of seven months of hearings and visits across the country by the commissioners, recites a familiar litany of evidence illustrating the poor economic, health, social, and educational status of American children.

The report notes, for example, that 20 percent of children are growing up in poverty, that one-quarter fail to finish high school, and that one-quarter live in single-parent homes. And it draws attention to the growing number of babies born addicted to "crack" cocaine and other drugs.

"There is a cancer within the American family that is out of proportion to any danger we might see anywhere else in the world," said T. Berry Brazleton, the renowned pediatrician and a commission member.

"As a nation we've been talking one game with children and playing another," said Mr. Rockefeller, a West Virginia Republican. "Time is running out, and we need to do something about it."

The commission is among a number of national groups, such as the Children's Defense Fund, to issue calls in recent years to attend to the well-being of children.

But, as the commissioners conceded last week, few such efforts have been translated into new programs or massive amounts of federal funding targeted at that population.

The commissioners predicted that their efforts would be more successful, in part, because of the diverse nature of their membership.

Appointed by both the Congress and the President, the bipartisan group includes governors, members of the Congress, state school superintendents, federal health officials, community activists, mayors, and representatives of advocacy groups.

The commission's final report is due next March.

"What we hope is that our final report will become the Nation at Risk that challenges America," said Mr. Rockefeller, referring to the report credited with launching the education-reform movement in 1983. "We want to tap into America's guilt."

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