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Coordinated National Strategy for Children Is Urged

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WASHINGTON--Calling on President Clinton to "mount the most comprehensive effort in behalf of our nation's children in America's history,'' the Child Welfare League of America last week urged the development of a coordinated national strategy on children and families.

While voicing support for the President's proposals on issues from Head Start to child-welfare reform, the group's executive director, David S. Liederman, said a more concerted effort is needed to stem the incidence of "tragedy involving children.''

At a news conference here last week, Mr. Liederman and Mary Bourdette, the C.W.L.A.'s director of public policy, noted that the consequences for children of poverty, child abuse, drug abuse, crime, violence, AIDS, and family dissolution have been well documented, but that they have not been addressed with a "common vision.''

"These challenges cannot be met if we maintain a piecemeal system of underfunded, uncoordinated services that place barriers in the paths of those it should serve,'' the group said in a statement.

Mr. Liederman urged the President to establish a White House council made up of heads of federal agencies and others who administer child and family programs.

No Cost Estimates

The National Council on Children and Their Families, which would be modeled after such bodies as the National Security Council, would develop a plan for children and families, advise the President on its implementation, coordinate the work of agencies involved, and assess whether the plan's goals were being met.

The group did not estimate the plan's cost, but Mr. Liederman said much of it could be carried out by reappropriating existing resources.

One of the council's jobs, he said, would be to determine which aspects could be done under existing laws and using existing resources and which would warrant additional resources or legislative changes.

While the C.W.L.A. did not specify what the plan should include, it outlined several guiding principles, including the need to make it comprehensive, prevention-oriented, accountable, focused on children and families, and culturally sensitive.

It is critical the plan be constructed so that local governments and community groups can "adjust it to fit'' their differing circumstances, Mr. Liederman said.

He conceded that achieving the level of national coordination and local flexibility needed would be difficult, and noted that, even if done well, the approach might work optimally in only about one-third of all communities.

Copies of "An Urgent Call for a National Plan for Children and Their Families'' are available free of charge from the Public Policy Department, Child Welfare League of America, 440 First St., N.W., Suite 310, Washington, D.C. 20001-2085.

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