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Put America's families first final commission report asserts.

"Families First," the final report of the National Commission on America's Urban Families was presented to President George Bush last week. That "strong families make strong communities and strong communities make strong families," was one of the major findings reported by the eight-member Presidential Commission.

The Commission Chairman, Missouri Governor John Ashcroft, noted that-the NLC leadership, who asked President Bush to establish the Commission a year ago as one part of a comprehensive request to support both the human and physical infrastructure needs of cities and towns, was far-sighted in, stressing the importance of families. "From what we have learned through the Commission's work, it is important that the nation strive to put families first," Ashcroft said.

The Commission's co-chair, former Dallas Mayor Annette Strauss, said that "the strength of America's families is vital to the strength of the nation. There is much that can be done to help families and communities, and the report outlines positive steps that schools, businesses, government, and families themselves can take."

To help strengthen families, the Commission proposed 75 recommendations including changes that would:

* redesign the welfare system,

* give families fairer treatment in the tax code,

* change laws on marriage and divorce,

* implement a National Cam- paign Against Violence,

* toughen laws on child support, and

* strengthen family preservation services.

NLC's request to President Bush and subsequent testimony to the Commission focused on moving away from a deficit model of looking at families to a capacity model--for instance, to look at prevention rather than the failures and to talk about the needs and realities of today's families.

The Commission devoted significant attention to supporting an ideal of "children growing up in the presence of their two, loving parents."

Toward this end, the Commission formulated a Family Strength Index that measures the strength of the family as a social institution. For 1990, the index was 66, falling from 71 in 1980 and 78 in 1970.

The proposed index would be based on five statistics which would indicate the proportion of children growing up with their two married parents. For instance, today one of the indicators shows that about one of every four children lives in a single-parent home, up from one of every 10 in 1960.

Strauss said that the problems associated with families affect all Americans regardless of race, income or where they live. "No family is immune," she said.

The Commission's 18 recommendations on "Building Community Support for Families" focus on:

* making neighborhoods safe for children and families,

* building grassroots, familycentered programs,

* asking local governments and schools to become more responsive to family needs,

* urging individuals and families to take responsibility for improving neighborhoods, and

* supporting a governmental and service provider focus on service integration and the prevention of family fragmentation.
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Author:Kyle, John E.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 18, 1993
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