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Early Years

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Children under age 6 frequently lose out in comprehensive statewide services for children. While many states sponsor one or more early-childhood programs, only a handful have designed a network of initiatives for young children and their families, a study by the National Center for Children in Poverty reports.

Thirty-seven states bankroll at least one pre-kindergarten, parent-education, or infant and toddler program, but only eight have set up partnerships with business and community leaders to provide services to children under age 6, the study says.

"The supports that are available to a child can vary tremendously depending upon which of the 50 states he or she happens to live in," said Jane Knitzer, a co-author of the study and the deputy director of the center, a nonprofit research group based at Columbia University's school of public health in New York City. Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming have not developed any state-financed initiatives specifically for serving young children, the report says.

Ohio, on the other hand, has fashioned an array of services for young children, making it easier for social-services workers to respond to young children in need. State officials have enlisted the medical unit of the Ohio National Guard to provide infant care, for example.

The report's researchers, who interviewed state and local government officials and reviewed state documents for "Map and Track: State Initiatives for Young Children and Families," found that a total of 18 states have broad state- or community-level early-childhood efforts in place. Colorado, for example, has created a "children's cabinet" to coordinate services to young children.

But, more often than not, even states that have planning systems in place have failed to link their welfare-reform campaigns with other overhauls of early-childhood programs, the authors say.

Despite the seemingly erratic efforts, the authors are encouraged that supporting young children seems to be a bipartisan endeavor. Republican and Democratic governors alike have supported spending on early-childhood programs. While many politicians see such programs as worthy efforts, however, the authors warn that increased pressures on state budgets could undermine promising moves to support young children in the future.

Copies of the report are available for $19.95 each from the NCCP, Columbia University School of Public Health, 154 Haven Ave., New York, N.Y. 10032; (212) 927-9162; e-mail:

--Jessica Portner

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