Governors Launch Campaign To Improve Children's Services

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The National Governors' Association launched a campaign last month to call attention to children's issues and laid out a set of principles designed to help agencies and communities serve children better.

Gov. Howard B. Dean of Vermont, the group's new chairman, announced the "Governors' Campaign for Children'' at the N.G.A.'s annual meeting, held in Boston last month.

While discussions on health care and welfare reform drew most of the headlines, the group's consensus on children's issues signals a willingness among governors to assume greater leadership in that area, said Linda McCart, the association's program director for child and social-services issues.

Increased state activity to reform child-welfare policies also shows a growing recognition among governors that, "unless we start early, we are never going to be able to solve some of the major social problems we have now,'' she said.

Economic and social conditions make it hard for many parents to give children everything they need to develop into caring and competent adults, Governor Dean said. But, he noted, state and federal agencies and institutions must work harder to involve families in programs and decisions affecting children and to serve families in less bureaucratic ways.

Mr. Dean said he would ask governors to identify successful programs in their communities and invite the people involved to describe their successes and problems.

He also plans to form a task force to develop model legislation that aims to help communities improve children's programs, work with foundations in offering technical help to selected states and communities, and lay out an action agenda for all states.

He said a forum on children's issues is being planned for next summer.

Vision for Reform

The governors also issued a "vision statement'' stressing children's need for good health care, adequate nutrition, safe and affordable housing, a safe environment, and a quality education.

The statement also says that children need an understanding of their culture, an affirmation of their self-worth, and a sense of responsibility to themselves and to society.

The statement includes reform principles that offer guidance on how all levels of government can work together to insure child health and safety and to improve children's programs and services.

A group convened by the former chairman, Gov. Carroll A. Campbell of South Carolina, developed the statement. Its members included representatives of the Council of State Governments, the International City/County Management Association, the National Association of Counties, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National League of Cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

In a separate action at the meeting, the governors' group also called for more comprehensive strategies to prevent teenage pregnancy.

Vol. 13, Issue 40

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