FROM "Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest...

Salmagundi

October 17, 1994

FROM "Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children," a report issued earlier this year by the Carnegie Corporation of New York:

Each year, American taxpayers reach deep into their pockets to meet the costs, both direct and indirect, of policies that are based on remediation rather than prevention.

* In the six years between 1985 and 1990, estimated public outlays related to teen-age childbearing totaled more than $120 billion. More than $48 billion could have been saved if these births had been postponed until the mother was age 20 or older.

* Of teens who give birth, 46 percent will go on welfare within four years; of unmarried teens who give birth, 73 percent will be on welfare within four years.

* In 1991, federal and state expenditures for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the largest entitlement program for poor families, totaled $20 billion plus administrative costs of $2.6 billion.

* In 1991, the estimated annual cost of treating fetal alcohol syndrome was $74.6 billion.

* Initial hospital care for each low-birth-weight infant averages $20,000. Total lifetime medical costs for a low-birth-weight infant average $400,000.

* * *

THIS point of view comes to us by way of the editorial page of the Cumberland Times-News in Western Maryland:

"Marylanders may soon see a statewide effort aimed at reducing the growing problem of violence and disruptive behavior among students. To succeed, it will need the cooperation of virtually everyone.

"Recommendations on dealing with the problem are contained in a report from the Governor's Commission on Disruptive Youth.

"After accepting the recommendations, Gov. William Donald Schaefer praised the findings, but he added there now must be the political will to see the changes accomplished. . . . Children need to be taught at the very outset, before they ever reach school, that disruptive behavior will not be tolerated.

"The governor's commission wants to see the state strengthen efforts to support and preserve families -- and identify families at risk so that every intervention can take place.

"Just as important, the commission recommends that consolidation of legal actions affecting children and families. . . . Included in the consolidation would be educational issues such as truancy, suspensions and expulsions if judicial intervention is needed.

"Finally, the commission said it would like to see the news media put more emphasis on student achievements and positive activities rather than focusing on student violence.

"The commission has come up with a big plan for a big problem. It will need the help of all of us if our school environments are to improve."

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