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Children's Advocates Mobilize To Protect Child-Care Programs

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Atlanta

Leaders of several children's groups, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children, are urging their members to hold the new Republican-controlled Leaders of several children's groups, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children, are urging their members to hold the new Republican-controlled Congress's feet to the fire on the issue of child care.

At the n.a.e.y.c.'s annual conference here, which drew some 28,000 participants, several presenters warned that g.o.p. proposals to overhaul welfare and consolidate social programs could undermine child-care programs. (See related story) The child-care and development block grant will be up for reauthorization next year.

The n.a.e.y.c. and other groups supplied postcards and paper-doll cutouts for early-childhood workers to use to send members of Congress stories about families who need child care.

Conference leaders also urged members to invite lawmakers unfamiliar with child-care issues to see their programs to help educate them about the critical importance of the early years to a child's development.

"The unified message should be that good child care helps families work and kids get ready for school," said Helen Blank, the director of child care for the Children's Defense Fund.

Information is available from Ms. Blank at (202) 662-3544.

Two coalitions of early-childhood experts held sessions to seek feedback on strategies for improving(See education.

The April 19th Group, a team of experts who began meeting on that date in 1992, is seeking support from several groups to endorse a set of guiding principles on what early-care programs should provide children and families.

The group admits some of the principles are self-evident, but says it is important for disparate groups to rally behind them at a time when scarce resources could fuel competition among programs.

Information is available from Anne Mitchell at (518) 966-4198.

Quality 2000, a four-year effort launched by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1993, is trying to generate fresh ideas and data to develop a long-range vision for the nation's early-care and education system. The project has commissioned papers from experts across disciplines on how other fields and countries approach issues related to quality, training, outcomes, financing, regulation, and government and business roles.

A panel looking at training, for example, has studied the status of child-care workers in other nations and licensing systems in other professions ranging from nursing to cosmetology.

For information on the project or the papers, call the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy at (203) 432-9931.

The National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education, which also met at the n.a.e.y.c. conference, is drafting a position paper that would encourage schools and other organizations to work together to create "family friendly" settings and help parents get involved in their children's education. Information is available from the group's president, Mary Carr, at (206) 486-2263.

Participants in the Worthy Wage Campaign, a grassroots effort to improve working conditions for child-care workers, made their annual pitch to the n.a.e.y.c. board to devote more resources and attention to the issue of low child-care wages.

The Worthy Wage Campaign was first launched in California by the Child-Care Employee Project, a group that moved to Washington this year and changed its name to the National Center for the Early Childhood Workforce.

The group distributed its own postcards to send to members of Congress and urged workers to let policymakers and parents know how low pay and high turnover hurt their programs.

Worthy Wage members also attended an open forum of the n.a.e.y.c.'s quality, compensation, and affordability panel, which has sought a long-term strategy to increase public awareness of how those three elements are linked.

The panel has worked with economists to help calculate the "true cost" of high-quality care and is trying to come up with a marketing strategy to reach various audiences.

Worthy Wage members want grassroots groups to take quicker and in some cases more militant actions to call attention to the salary issue. But forum participants agreed they can cooperate in several areas and that child-care leaders must strive to develop systematic professional standards.

At an n.a.e.y.c. business meeting, other conferees urged the board to adopt a lengthy resolution condemning Proposition 187--the California law that seeks to deny social services to illegal immigrants--and to launch a campaign to combat violence.

Sessions on violence and young children--including a keynote speech by Geoffrey Canada, who heads the Rheedlin Centers for Children and Families in New York City--were among the most well attended. Presenters and participants offered tips for working with state and local groups on the problem and stressed that early education can play a big role.

"For many kids exposed to violence, one treatment of choice is a really good, loving early-childhood program," said Jane Grady, the president of the Chicago metropolitan area affiliate of the n.a.e.y.c.

Another hot conference topic, the use of technology in early-childhood programs, is the subject of a new book edited by June Wright and Daniel Shade. Copies of Young Children: Active Learners in a Technological Age, are available for $7 from n.a.e.y.c. Resource Sales, 1509 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-1426; (202) 328-2604.

--Deborah L. Cohen

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