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Based on the premise that children lack the political clout to influence policymakers, the Coalition for America's Children has decided to raise public awareness about children's issues and to urge voters to challenge candidates and officeholders to adopt positions and policies responsive to children's needs.

The nonpartisan coalition, based in Washington, includes a wide range of national, state, and community-based nonprofit organizations promoting children's health, education, and well-being. Among its members are the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, Save the Children, and various state youth-advocacy groups.

Touting the slogan "Who's for Kids, and Who's Just Kidding?," the group will issue buttons, brochures, bumper stickers, and briefing materials that can be used to challenge politicians to ensure children's health, education, safety, security, and freedom from abuse, violence, and drugs.

In a survey the group recently conducted of 1,000 adults, 71 percent said children's programs should be a higher priority for the government, but many said they were skeptical about whether money earmarked for children through government programs actually reaches them.

"Their confidence in government is so low that they're not sure if government is the problem or the solution for their children," said Robert Keeshan, a coalition board member better known as television's longtime "Captain Kangaroo."

The percentage of teenagers who say they use drugs or alcohol continues to decline, according to the results of a new federal survey.

The household survey of more than 32,000 people conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that, among adults, the number who say they use cocaine at least once a month increased by almost one-fifth over last year's total. There was also an increase in the number of adults being treated in emergency rooms for cocaine-related problems.

Among youths ages 12 to 17, however, the percentage who said they used cocaine during the previous month dropped from 0.6 percent in 1990 to 0.4 percent last year. Lower percentages of youths also reported using alcohol, cigarettes, and hallucinogens, the survey found.

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