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Word Count: 431
Preparing Americas children for the 21st century is among our most important national priorities Todays children face the promise of a new century of unparalleled opportunity in which new technologies improvements in health expanding economies and other advances create the hope that their future will be the brightest of any generation in history Yet too many of them face obstacles that obscure that bright future including poverty violence child abuse limited educational opportunity and unhealthy behaviors The devastating economic social and human costs of these obstacles are indisputable Addressing these challenges to their future and investing in opportunities so that all children can reach their full potential An essential component of this strategy is undertaking research to provide new knowledge of ways to improve their futures and to provide sound guidance for policy makers to assure that efforts to help are likely to succeed Numerous indicators of the well-being of our children and families paint a mixed picture of successes and shortcomings Our national infant mortality rate is declining rapidly and is at a record low but is still higher than that of many other countries Our childrens test scores in reading and science are improving but still trail those of several other industrialized nations Our school dropout rate is unacceptably high costing over 250 billion each year in lost earnings and foregone taxes as well as lost human potential Our teenage pregnancy rate is declining slightly but is still the highest in the developed world Our national vaccination coverage is the highest ever but in many communities less than 50 percent of two-year-olds are adequately immunized A similar picture of gains and unmet goals exists with respect to youth violence child poverty smoking and other substance abuse Much of the progress achieved in these and other areas is the result of critical research efforts that have advanced our understanding of how children and youths develop into healthy and productive individuals Research has helped
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