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Report: Kids Face Critical Threats

November 29, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Teen pregnancy, abuse and neglect at home, inadequate child care, poor schools and lack of health care are among the biggest dangers threatening America’s children, according to a new report from a coalition of urban and child advocacy groups.

The report, ``Ten Critical Threats To America’s Children: Warning Signs for the Next Millennium,″ also lists such threats as substance abuse, poverty, absent parents, crime and dangers in the environment.

The study is the work of the National School Boards Association, the National League of Cities, Hollywood, Fla.-based Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and Youth Crime Watch of America. It was released today at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

``The problems confronting our children truly are challenges to all of America,″ said Mary Ellen Maxwell, president of the National School Boards Association. ``Either we meet these challenges or they will become obstacles to our future.″

Dr. Arnold Tanis, a fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, ``We want to see these issues addressed, and one way to do it is make people aware of them and begin a national dialogue.″

The threats, which are not ranked, were compiled through research and interviews with experts, child advocacy organizations and government agencies. Research was collected from a variety of documents including the Census Bureau’s Income and Poverty Report for 1998, the 1999 Child Welfare League of America Stat Book and several studies by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Some of the statistics were alarming. According to the report, 14.5 million children _ nearly 1 in 5 _ experience poverty. During 1997, 3.2 million children were reported to authorities as abused and neglected. Last year, 11.1 million children younger than 18 had no health insurance. And each year, 3 million American teens are infected with AIDS, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Each of the 10 threats is listed with possible solutions _ like raising the minimum wage and universal health care.

Participants said they hoped the issues would begin debate among presidential candidates and local communities.

``This is America’s challenge,″ said Clarence Anthony, president of the National League of Cities and mayor of South Bay, Fla. ``It’s an agenda for action.″

Ron Sachs, spokesman for the coalition which put together the report, said its purpose was to raise awareness of the problems, not to advance specific legislation.

``What these groups have done is to say there needs to be a national agenda on children’s issues,″ Sachs said. ``These problems are not new. They are chronic; they are pervasive.″

Anthony said the report includes common sense solutions to problems.

``This report is not about gloom and doom _ it’s about the obstacles our children face and embracing a national agenda that will benefit them in the next millennium,″ Anthony said.

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