- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Most Americans have traditional views about the family even though they don't always act according to their stated beliefs, say sponsors of a new book about the condition of the American family.
"The evidence is overwhelming that a family built on the foundation of marriage remains the best possible environment for raising healthy, stable, well-adjusted children," said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), which yesterday released "The Family Portrait: A Compilation of Data, Research and Public Opinion on the Family."
But even though most Americans have conservative views about the family for instance, they think marriage is very important they may act differently, cohabiting instead of marrying, said editor Bridget Maher.
"The Family Portrait," with its research and poll data on marriage, adoption, child care, unwed parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, single-parent families, stepfamilies and teen family issues, can provide a "full picture" of Americans' views and behavior, Miss Maher said.
This is the first book dedicated to "family-centered" data, she added. "The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators," published in 1994 and 2001 by former Education Secretary William J. Bennett and Empower America respectively, contained family data but followed a broader agenda with data on education, crime, popular culture and civic participation.
"The Family Portrait" is a good resource because it shows both long- and short-term family trends, said Urban Institute researcher Gregory Acs, who appeared on an FRC panel discussion of the book.
For instance, between 1960 and 1995, the share of children living with two biological parents fell dramatically but then leveled off, he said. Teen birthrates rose until the 1990s and have fallen steadily, while births to all unmarried women climbed during the same period but plateaued after the mid-1990s.
Ironically, the federal government stopped collecting comprehensive data on marriage and adoption the two primary forms of family formation in the 1990s.
It's not clear why these data collections were stopped, or what kind of financing it will take to begin collecting them again, but there are "conversations" about this issue in the Bush administration, said Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The data in the FRC book show that government funding of institutional day care is out of step with parents' choices, said Charmaine Crouse Yoest, who teaches at the University of Virginia, and Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.
It's well known that grandparents or other relatives are the top child care choice of families with working mothers, but it's less known that the second choice is for the father or mother to care for the children themselves, either at work or by working opposite shifts, said Mrs. Yoest.
Nonetheless, the government gives "massive aid" through the Dependent Care Tax Credit for professional child care, even though this is the least popular choice of parents, said Mr. Carlson, who is FRC's new Distinguished Fellow for Family Policy Studies.
Government can't instill values or spiritual context into family policies, said Mr. Carlson, but government can change its tax policies to recognize the inherent social importance of marriage, parenting and children.
"Corporations and government exist to serve families, not the other way around," he said.

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