For Reno, Fight For Children Begins at Home

ATTORNEY General Janet Reno is a no-nonsense kind of lady.

Ask her a question about something she doesn't want to talk about, and she won't talk about it. Period. Or word a question in a way that causes her to take issue, and she'll nearly bite a reporter's head off.

But raise the subject of children, and the former state attorney of Dade County, Fla., turns eloquent: "When I took office in Miami, I tried to focus in our juvenile division on 16- and 17-year-olds," Ms. Reno told reporters at a Monitor breakfast yesterday.

"As I looked at so many of the youngsters coming through the system, I could see all sorts of intervention points along the way.... One of the common denominators was the single parent who was either indifferent or just downright neglecting the children for a variety of reasons and sometimes abusing them."

Part of the solution, she says, is for society's institutions - including the police - to look at the family as a whole. And the key is to consider the needs of children, starting at birth.

"We need to develop key points along the scale, both in terms of early-childhood care, focusing on parenting, really making a concerted effort to do something about teen pregnancy, so the parents are old enough, wise enough, and financially able to take care of children," she says. "At the same time, [we must let] children know that there's no excuse [for] putting a gun up beside somebody's head, and that they'll face a reasonable share of punishment if they did so," she says.

"If we combined punishment with prevention and well-thought-out continuums," she concludes, "we might really have an impact on violence."

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