Early Years Column

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Although publicized accounts of sexual abuse in day-care centers have made some parents wary of them, "day care can play an instrumental role in helping children stay safe," according to the National Association of Social Workers.

An article in the March issue of Social Work, the n.a.s.e.'s bimonthly journal, describes a "child personal-safety program" operating in several Philadelphia day-care centers.

The program trains teachers to help develop children's awareness of their bodies and feelings and to help them distinguish positive from threatening touches. Children are taught to alert a trusted adult at any sign of sexual abuse.

The approach, introduced to nearly 200 teachers and 1,000 children by an 11-branch day-care agency in Philadelphia, also involves workshops to help educate parents about how to recognize and protect their children from such abuse.

Pointing to data documenting the harmful effects of physical punishment, experts from a wide range of professions have launched a campaign to stop parents from using it to discipline children.

The topic was the focus of a conference at the Wingspread center in Racine, Wis., last month, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Johnson Foundation.

Calling for "national action" on the matter, representatives of child-advocacy groups and specialists in pediatric medicine, psychology, social work, and criminal justice agreed to work together to change attitudes about the role of physical punishment in childrearing--and to educate parents about "appropriate, alternate forms of discipline."

Conference participants are planning a publicity campaign and enlisting the support of professional organizations.

Gearing up for the anticipated debate on children's issues in the 101st Congress, two groups have published resource documents for policymakers and citizens.

Giving Children a Chance: the Case for More Effective National Policies, published by the Center for National Policy Press and edited by Representative George Miller of California, presents perspectives on children's policy issues by prominent educators, medical and child-development experts, and national organizations. It also includes a report airing corporate leaders' views on children's issues.

The Children's Defense Fund's "Child Care: Key Facts" offers a summary of statistics on working parents and child-care arrangements and descriptions of proposals to expand the federal role in child care.--d.c.

Vol. 08, Issue 25

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