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Caregiving issue explored at WIMG meeting.

The Women in Municipal Government (WIMG) board members met in Evanston, Ill. this past weekend to focus on the caregiving crisis in this country. The issues of caregiving in the United States today mirror the concerns that have emerged in the aftermath of recent urban violence.

"We may need to break the mold, and recognize that traditional service delivery of children and elderly programs is no longer adequate," said Beth Boosalis Davis, president of WIMG and alderwoman of Evanston. "Our society is changing and we must take a fresh look at this multi-generational issue, along with the many other issues affecting urban residents."

Indeed, it is not just the old and the young in our society who are affected by poverty and inadequate services. The "sandwich generation," those individuals who must commit time and family resources to helping their children and their elderly parents, are squeezed in the middle, bearing the financial and emotional burdens. In most cases, this responsibility falls on women.

"Unlike many national problems, the crisis in caregiving cuts across age, income class and racial lines. By the year 2000, there will be almost 10 million children under the age of five who have working mothers and 33 million children will be under the age of 15. Additionally, there will be an estimated 5 million elder Americans over the age of 85," noted Davis. "This means that nearly 50 million Americans will need some level of care from the women (and in some cases, men) of this country."

The panel on May 15 included Jack Brizius, co-author of Caring Too Much?: American Women and the Nation's Caregiving Crisis, Illinois state comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch and state representative Jan Schakowsky, and Maria Whelan, director of children services in the city of Chicago.

Both Illinois state elected women officials discussed their family leave legislation that has been passed three times and vetoed by the governor. They stressed the importance of providing family leave in both the public and private sector. Representative Schakowsky also unveiled her proposal to provide universal, comprehensive health care by restructuring the state's medical program.

Maria Whelan focused on adequate child care options for families. She reminded these elected officials to be careful of what you ask for and to balance. responsiveness with quality assurance.

Legislators heard from their constituents and child care advocates that more in-home family day care was needed.

On Saturday morning, the WIMG board reconvened to hear from the following speakers on the caregiving topic: Beatrice Rieckhoff, spokesperson for AARP's Women's Initiative Program, Delores Holmes, director of Family Focus Evanston, and Brian Samuels, director of special projects at the Family Resource Coalition.

Rieckhoff from AARP offered 8 low to no cost suggestions of how to improve caregiving to elder Americans. These included:

* More adult day care, offered in conjunction with child day care;

* Information packets on elderly services that can be made readily available to families struggling with the need to provide elder care;

* Counseling services for the "sandwich generation" who will face caregiving responsibilities for their parents;

* Support groups for families who are caring for an elderly parent; Reading rooms in public libraries and community centers with caregiving information and reading materials;

* Availability of flexible benefit packages and leave policies for employees that are responsive to caregiving responsibilities;

* Access to the resources of the USDA Cooperative Extention service targeted to senior citizens; and

* Better case management of elder Americans so that all options are made available to the individual and his/her family members;

Holmes and Samuels discussed the concept of family resource centers which provide for a comprehensive array of support services to neighborhood residents, regardless of family income. Samuels provided a national perspective on family resources centers work with other community and neighborhood groups to be effective.

In Evanston, Family Focused Evanston (the local family resource center) offers teenage pregnancy prevention information and support services, after school programs for elementary school children, family counselling services, public health services and many others. The center has forged partnerships with the school system, city departments, the Private Industry Council (PIC), other non-profit agencies and the business community.

The WIMG agenda shifted focus for the afternoon. Illinois' democratic senatorial candidate Carol Moseley Braun was the keynote speaker at a luncheon held for the WIMG board and 20 local women elected officials from the city of Evanston. Women control the majority of seats on Evanston's two school districts. Futhermore, the mayor of Evanston is a woman and women hold half the seats on the city council.

During the afternoon, women elected officials had the opportunity to see how the city has offered new economic development, cultural and human service programs through the reuse and redevelopment of existing facilities and abandoned land. In two instances, the city has converted two former school buildings into a cultural arts center and a family resource center. The city has also recreated a research park and small business incubator, in conjunction with Northwestern University, on abandoned railway lands.

For more information about this meeting or membership information about Women in Municipal Government, please contact me at (202) 626-3181.
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Title Annotation:includes related statement on an urban action plan; Women in Municipal Government
Author:McCarthy, Kathryn Shane
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 25, 1992
Words:849
Previous Article:In focus: distant Washington.
Next Article:Superfund needs changes to best serve public.
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