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Experts and young people from around the world met in Atlanta this month to exchange ideas on improving children's health, educational status, and social well-being.

The conference--called Children's First: A Global Forum--was hosted by former first couple Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in conjunction with the Carter Center and the Task Force for Child Survival and Development. The Carters founded the center in 1982 to promote peaceful conflict resolution, anti-poverty and global health initiatives, and urban revitalization. The task force was set up by international organizations in 1984 to focus on immunization issues and has since expanded to other areas of child advocacy.

Children's First brought together 360 specialists and 40 youths from 90 countries to pursue goals set during a 1990 World Summit for Children. The group put together a plan for the next four years that focuses on education, health, safety, and economic security.

Other conference highlights included an address via satellite by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, presentations on successful child-development programs from around the world, and the release of a new World Bank report titled "Early Child Development: Investing in the Future."

For more information, call the Task Force for Child Development and Survival at (404) 872-4860. Conference organizers also have a site on the World Wide Web that invites children's opinions on social issues and offers guidance for teachers.

The site is

State legislators aren't getting a clear message from advocacy groups about the importance of a comprehensive children and family agenda, a new study suggests.

In preparing the study, the Centerville, Mass.-based State Legislative Leaders Foundation interviewed 177 Republican and Democratic state legislative leaders from all 50 states and surveyed 167 child and family organizations.

The researchers found that many state legislative leaders don't hear from constituents on child and family issues, and that they view the groups that do approach them as liberals and "elitists" who do not have a good grasp of the legislative process.

"In the eyes of state legislative leaders, there is no clear discernible legislative agenda for children and families," the report states. "Instead, there is a plethora of individuals and organizations advocating different agendas."

The report says legislators must assume more responsibility for tackling child and family issues. But it suggests that political forces, such as shorter term limits and block grants, make it even more important to ensure that leaders get timely and well-balanced information. Child and family advocates need more training and a clearer focus to become significant players, the report suggests.

Copies of "State Legislative Leaders: Keys to Effective Legislation for Children and Families" are available free of charge from Debra Haigh, Children and Families Program, State Legislative Leaders Foundation, 16 Bayberry Square, 1645 Falmouth Road, Centerville, Mass. 02632; (508) 771-3821.

Back when children didn't need formal schooling to become productive citizens, the concept of "learning disabilities" did not exist. If children had problems learning, more often than not they stopped going to school.

That option may not be considered viable today, but it's still difficult to sort out the roles different professionals should play in helping children with learning disabilities achieve their potential.

The National Health and Education Consortium takes a stab at it in a new report that looks at learning disabilities through the lenses of both health and education. The Washington-based group includes 58 health and education associations representing some 12 million practitioners.

The report tries to help educators and health experts understand each other's roles so they can work together and with parents more effectively.

Copies of "The Invisible Disability: Understanding Learning Disabilities in the Context of Health and Education" are available for $9.50 each (including shipping) from the National Health and Education Consortium, Institute for Educational Leadership, 1001 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 822-8405.

--Deborah L. Cohen

Vol. 15, Issue 31, Page 36

Published in Print: April 24, 1996, as Common Causes
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