Children and Family

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Many states are "failing, and failing badly" to improve the economic conditions of people on welfare, a 50-state study of welfare-reform implementation concludes.

Researchers from the Center on Hunger and Poverty at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., examined how each state is handling the 34 policy decisions left up to their discretion under the federal reform law passed in 1996. Those decisions affect such issues as child care, health coverage, job training, and time limits for benefits.

According to the scale designed by the researchers, states that received a negative score are doing "more poorly" than they were before welfare became their responsibility. For example, they may have decided to decrease spending on transitional child care for parents entering the workforce.

Thirty-five states, the report concludes, have adopted policies that will worsen the economic security of families, while 14 states, or fewer than one-third, have implemented rules that are likely to improve conditions.

Overall, states in the Northeastern and Western regions of the country received positive scores, while Southern and Midwestern states received negative scores. With a score of +12, Vermont received the highest rating; Idaho was at the bottom, with a -15.5.

Copies of "Are States Improving the Lives of Poor Families?" are available for $8 from the Center on Hunger and Poverty, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155; (617) 627-3956; or by fax at (617) 627-3020.

Directors of 16 Chicago child-care centers are getting a chance to improve their knowledge of early education because of a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

The foundation has donated $885,000 to the Early Childhood Professional Development Project at National-Louis University, which began offering a new graduate-degree program in early-childhood administration this year at its Chicago campus.

The grant will cover tuition for the 16 directors. Coursework in the program will focus on the complex role of a center director and cover such topics as staff development, physical improvements to a center, curriculum development, and the process of earning accreditation from the Washington-based National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Through its five-year Focus on Quality initiative, the foundation is working to increase the number of accredited centers in Chicago, where it is located.

--LINDA JACOBSON [email protected]

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