House GOP Plan Aims to Bolster Family Ties Family Act Offers Tax Credits for Care of Elderly and for Adoption, and Tougher Child-Support Enforcement, but Cost Is High Series: REPUBLICNA ROAD MAP. Part of a Series

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DAN QUAYLE'S "family values" may soon see a new day.

One of the 10 proposals in the Republican "Contract With America" includes tax credits for care of elderly relatives and adoption, more efficient child-support collection mechanisms, and tougher punishments for sexual abuse.

Called the Family Reinforcement Act, the proposal was designed to be agreeable to both Republicans and Democrats.

"There was a concerted effort to eliminate abortion, school choice, and other controversial issues so as to attract as big a following as possible," says a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill.

House Republicans have promised to bring all 10 Contract proposals to a floor vote in the first 100 days of the 104th Congress.

Bipartisan support for the family act is strong, but the cost - $9 billion over five years, according to Republican estimates - remains a source of contention.

"The biggest challenge for supporters is finding the means to pay for it," says the staffer, requesting anonymity. "We have some ideas," but no specifics thus far.

Beyond cost, some Democrats charge that many of the ideas are simply rehashed versions of plans they introduced in the last two sessions of Congress.

But the most consistent criticism is that the proposal does not go far enough. How much substance?

Some elements are "largely symbolic," rhetorical tools for Republicans to advance the cause of "family values," charges Margaret Weir of the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

The $500 tax credit for families caring for elderly relatives, for example, is only "a nod toward the fact that there are some serious problems," says Judy Waxman, director of government affairs for the Washington-based lobbying group Families USA, referring to the financial burdens involved in caring for elderly family members.

Though she insists the money could be used more effectively, Ms. Waxman admits, "Who's going to turn {the $500} down?"

The tax credit would be refundable, so even families that owe no federal taxes would receive $500.

For the 58,000 families each year who pay an average of $10,000 in fees to adopt a child, the $5,000 adoption tax credit - also refundable - is "very much on the mark," says Mark Eckman, executive director of the Datz Foundation, a Washington-based adoption provider. …