Reporter's Notebook: Study of Funding for Youth Services Set

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BOSTON--Eight foundations have created an independent organization to study how children's services are funded and issue recommendations for reform.

The "Finance Project,'' announced here late last month at the fall meeting of the Council on Foundations' Precollegiate Group, will examine how local, state, and federal governments finance social programs.

In addition to public education, the group will study programs in the areas of child welfare, housing, child care and early-childhood development, income security, and health.

"These are tough issues,'' said the project's executive director, Cheryl D. Hayes, who served as the executive director of the National Commission on Children. "This is a relatively high-risk venture for many foundations.''

Supporting the effort are the Annie E. Casey, Danforth, Ford, Johnson, Ewing M. Kauffman, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, and C.S. Mott foundations and the Foundation for Child Development. Other foundations are expected to join later.

As the conference's keynote speaker, Terry Peterson, an aide to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, asked the foundation community to back the Administration's education agenda.

"We can turn schools around,'' Mr. Peterson said. "The trick is, how do you turn lots of schools around faster?''

Mr. Peterson named six types of programs that he said are in particular need of philanthropic backing: long-term leadership-development efforts, university initiatives to revamp teacher training, incentive programs for students who stay in school, state and local business-education coalitions, parental-involvement programs, and efforts to improve communication between schools and the community.

Mary Leonard, the director of precollegiate programs for the Council on Foundations, observed that the Precollegiate Group "is very much a group in transition.''

The group had evolved out of an "old boys'' network of seven or eight program officers who began meeting informally in the mid-1970's to discuss education issues, Ms. Leonard said, and finally launched a formal organization in 1980 with 35 members.

After experiencing a surge in membership in the 1980's, the Precollegiate Group is now re-examining its mission and debating how best to meet the needs of its current membership of about 350 program officers.

In light of increased interest in integrating children's services, the group's members have discussed the possibility of merging with Grantmakers for Children, Youth, and Families, a council "affinity group'' that focuses on a broad range of health and social issues affecting children and families. The Children, Youth, and Families group also has about 350 members.

But a merger has been ruled out for now, according to Leslie Graitcer, the associate director of the BellSouth Foundation, primarily because of concern that education issues could get lost in the larger arena.

Ms. Graitcer, the Precollegiate Group's new chairwoman, said she hopes to help it "become a little more visible ... and to draw people back in'' who have not been deeply involved.

In another effort to strengthen the organization, Ms. Leonard said, an informal group has been formed to better serve the evolving needs of senior grantmakers, who may have different interests from foundation officers new to the field.

A new publication distributed at the conference highlights one city's effort to examine children's issues.

"What Works: Hopeful Strategies for Portland's Children'' was produced by the Campbell Institute for Children, a self-described "think/action tank'' based in Portland, Ore.

The colorful, 82-page report offers examples of how families and individuals--as well as neighborhoods, schools, religious groups, businesses, service clubs, the media, and government--can help improve children's welfare.

Copies of the report are available for $12 each from the Campbell Institute for Children, One S.W. Columbia, Suite 1720, Portland, Ore. 97258; (503) 275-9675.--M.S.

Vol. 13, Issue 09

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