Child care falls short, report says

Study says better care could reduce crime rate

April 28, 2000|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- A report to be released today by a bipartisan advocacy group argues that federal and state governments have failed to pay for child care programs for lower-income children that would lessen the likelihood that they would later commit crimes.

"Quality educational child care in the first years of life can greatly reduce the risk that today's babies and toddlers will become tomorrow's violent teens and adults," states the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Sun.

"Inadequate child care -- the only kind millions of families can afford -- can actually multiply the danger that at-risk children will grow up with problem behaviors that can lead to later crime and violence," it says.

The report, issued by the group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, is to be released at a White House news conference today that will include Hillary Rodham Clinton and Patrick Sullivan, the Republican sheriff of Littleton, Colo.

Among the report's authors are William Bratton, a former New York City police commissioner; T. Berry Brazelton, a Harvard pediatrician; and Lawrence W. Sherman, a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

The report is being released with the endorsement of the Clinton administration, which has called for adding 150,000 lower-income families to federally subsidized state child care programs. The Clinton proposal would boost spending on the effort to $2 billion annually, from $1.2 billion.

The measure's prospects are uncertain, but it has picked up support from some Republicans in the GOP-controlled Congress.

"We didn't keep up with the changing work force," says Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Baltimore Democrat, who, with Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, is a leading advocate of the Clinton plan in Congress.

"If we provide a child care system that treats 3-year-olds as children, we won't have to provide a court system that tries 12-year- olds as adults," Cardin said.

Among the findings of the Fight Crime report, which blends new research with previous findings:

Needy children who receive inadequate day care in a learning environment are at least twice as likely to be arrested as teens as those who receive such care.

The failure to provide adequate development programs to such children could make them five times as likely to become chronic lawbreakers as adults.

The federal block grant program that gives money to states and communities that offer care to needy children serves only one in 10 eligible children.

In every state, the cost for an infant to attend a high-quality urban child care center exceeds the tuition at a public university.

"As Senator Dodd always says, children are priceless," says Unice B. Lieberman, his press secretary. "We shouldn't nickel and dime them when it comes to providing safe and affordable child care."

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