New Look at Plight of US Children Puts Pressure on Clinton Reforms

Article excerpt

A STRING of recent high-profile reports on America's children are once again sounding the alarm about the nation's future.

* A three-year study by the Carnegie Corporation of New York concluded that "across the United States, we are beginning to hear the rumblings of a quiet crisis" for children under age 3.

* The Child Welfare League of America reports that nearly 1 million children in the US are living with relatives other than their parents. "So many kids are losing their parents to drugs, violence, physical and mental illness, incarceration, and the tragedy of HIV-AIDS that grandparents and other relatives are being called upon to care for children in much larger numbers," says David Liederman, executive director of the league.

* A recent study by the Families and Work Institute found that only 9 percent of family child-care arrangements provide good quality care.

The timing of these reports increases pressure on the Clinton administration as it works toward reforming the nation's health-care and welfare systems.

The report, which resulted from a 30-member task force of experts from a range of fields, aims to "raise the level of consciousness of the nation concerning the plight of families rearing young children."

Secretary of Education Richard Riley was the chairman of the task force until joining the Clinton administration.

The report says that a "staggering" number of America's 12 million infants and toddlers confront serious risks to healthy development. One in 4 children lives in poverty, and the same proportion live in single-parent families.

"This is a high-stakes game we are playing with our children and, hence, with the future of our nation," says David Hamburg, president of the Carnegie Corporation.

It has long been recognized that the early childhood years are a crucial foundation for future development. Yet the Carnegie task force hopes this report, "Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children," will serve as a catalyst for change. After all, a well-received report, "A Nation at Risk," is widely credited with launching the education reform movement in 1983.

Speaking at a Carnegie conference last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton said she hoped this report will "serve as a blueprint for our institutions in adult society about what our obligations are . …