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Early Years Column

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Overlapping and fragmented federal early-childhood programs leave many children unserved and fail to provide a consistent and comprehensive level of care, a report suggests.

The U.S. General Accounting Office reports that in fiscal 1992 and 1993 the federal government provided money for more than 90 early-childhood programs in 11 agencies and 20 offices.

The 34 programs providing child care or early education as their main missions spent at least $3.6 billion and served at least two million children in fiscal 1992, the report says.

Thirteen of those programs targeted economically disadvantaged children, but officials at many programs said they served only a portion of those eligible and had long waiting lists. Discrepancies in eligibility rules "may lead to disruptions in services from even slight changes in the family's status," the report adds.

The most comprehensive programs, the report says, are Head Start, the comprehensive child-development centers, and Even Start.

Single copies of "Early Childhood Programs: Multiple Programs and Overlapping Target Groups," are available for free from the G.A.O., P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20884-6015. The order number is G.A.O./H.E.H.S.-95-4f.s.

A new study defies predictions that tougher child-care regulations in Georgia would shut down many programs.

The study, financed by the Ford Foundation, surveyed 400 to 500 licensed child-care programs in a two-year period after new standards were adopted in 1991.

The study found modest increases in new programs, teaching positions, and children served after the regulations took effect. Also, staff turnover decreased somewhat.

Copies of the study, "Child-Care Licensing: Georgia Impact Study," are available for $10 each from Quality Assist, 386 Moreland Ave., N.E., Suite 240, Atlanta, Ga. 30307.

A recent U.S. Education Department report synthesizes research on school readiness.

The report, designed to help set the agenda for the department's new National Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education, discusses what constitutes readiness and how families, communities, and early-childhood programs can help children achieve it.

Copies of "Review of Research on Achieving the Nation's Readiness Goal," stock no. 065-000-00710-0, are available for $6 each from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15250-7954.

--Deborah L. Cohen

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