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Orange Couty Focus

YOUTH : COUNTYWIDE : Advocates Form Children's Summit

June 01, 1993|DAVAN MAHARAJ

Only three years ago, local child advocacy groups were staking out their turf and scrambling among themselves for a share in the rapidly shrinking pool of charitable contributions.

But no more.

The same advocates have joined together to establish the Orange County Summit for Children, which they promise will be a tenacious watchdog for the almost 600,000 children in Orange County.

The summit is made up of a broad section of the community--elected officials, nonprofit organizations, churches, government entities, corporations and small businesses.

In 1990, local advocates came upon the idea for a broad-based group to work for the welfare of the county's children after a United Nations Summit for Children called on nations--and communities--to use the last decade of the century to improve the welfare of children.

This year, a report released by California Now, the nonprofit organization that tracks the well-being of the state's children, showed increases in violence among teen-agers, in poverty rates and in teen-age birth rates in Orange County.

Acknowledging that the condition of the county's children was deteriorating, summit leaders had set about since to identify problems. The leaders included William G. Steiner, a former head of the Orangewood Children's Foundation and now a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Last month, community leaders opened the issue for public debate with the first summit for children at Chapman University in Orange.

At that forum, the county's leaders vowed to place the welfare of the county's children among their top priorities. Various groups pledged millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours toward the effort.

Summit leaders said they plan to work toward the goals established at last month's forum to improve the condition of the county's youngest citizens.

"We're not going away," said E. Wayne Hart, a summit leader. "This is only the first chapter."

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