WASHINGTON -- After 2 1/2 years of work, the National Commission on Children next month will recommend major changes in the nation's health and welfare systems, a hefty tax credit for families with children and some form of parental leave legislation, a member of the panel has revealed.
The commission will also recommend the creation of a White House coordinator of family issues, according to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a Harvard University pediatrician and author who has served on the 34-member commission.
The report is due for release in early June as part of a major bipartisan effort to focus political attention on what many experts see as a crisis in American families.
Though the commission is keeping its final report secret, Brazelton said yesterday the major emphasis will be in three areas:
* Major changes in the health care system to improve service and hold down costs, with particular attention to preventive medicine. Right now, Brazelton said, "It's not doing anybody any good."
* Some form of parental leave policy that would allow parents time off from work for births or ailing children. Though Brazelton described the commission's compromise on the subject as relatively "weak," he said Republicans on the panel did recognize "that parental leave has got to happen and it's just a matter of time."
* A tax credit for families with children more than the $800 which some congressional Democrats have proposed to ease the burden on the middle class and poor.
Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., who recently took command of the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, has launched a series of hearings on such topics as health care and the federal tax structure.
"Parents want two things: time and money," Schroeder said. "Parental leave kind of locks in the time and the tax things start looking at the money."
The $74 billion spent by the federal government on children and families is spread through so many agencies that often little of it reaches those who need help. For instance, the commission will recommend abolishing the current welfare system, Brazelton said, "and using that money in a very different way."
The current welfare system, he said, demands that people "establish themselves as failures to get a handout, and then the handout is just a symbol. So I think we've got to reorganize ourselves at a very basic level."
Parent Action, a pro-family lobbying group Brazelton helped found, plans an expansion drive in the fall.