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Survey Finds City Officials Fear for Plight of Families

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Washington

Officials in most U.S. cities fear that meeting the needs of children and families will be harder in the coming years, according to a National League of Cities survey released last week.

Although the survey did not ask specifically about welfare reform, more than half of the respondents said that serving children and families will be more difficult "as a result of changes in federal and state roles, policies, and actions."

The report draws on the league's first major survey since 1988 of municipal officials and their concerns for children and families. The group polled city managers, service directors, and other officials in 780 cities and towns, and found few changes in their concerns since the earlier report.

Among the largest cities, nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed that "the lives of children and families will be worse" in the future. Of these, 75 percent said eligibility rules for receiving services will be stricter, and 92 percent predicted that funding for such services will decrease.

"This report confirms our worst fears," said David S. Liederman, the executive director of the Child Welfare League of America, a Washington-based group that represents organizations serving abused or neglected children and their families. Mr. Liederman spoke at the NLC's press conference here last week.

"It is totally unrealistic that even the best-intentioned cities and mayors can pick up the slack and protect vulnerable children without considerable federal support," he said.

'Some Good News'

Despite the concerns about the future, NLC officials found cause for optimism in the survey results.

About 70 percent of the respondents said the condition of their cities' children and families is about the same as or better than it was five years ago, and more than half said their cities spend more on children and families than five years ago.

"There's some good news in the survey," said Greg Lashutka, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio, and the president of NLC, a Washington-based group concerned with urban policy. "But as we go through the belt-tightening in Washington, we surely must not take anything for granted."

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