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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 9, 1998
                             TO THE NATION     

The Oval Office

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Tomorrow is Mother's Day, a special moment to express the gratitude, respect, and love we feel all year round. Our mothers give us life; they offer us unconditional love, strong guidance, and the sense that we can grow up to do anything we can dream of. From our first moments, mothers are our best teachers and most selfless friends. And, like my own mother, whom I miss very much, especially on Mother's Day, they rarely ask for thanks. A mother's main wish is to see her children grow up healthy and happy.

Today, I want to talk about a few ways we, here in Washington, can give all mothers that peace of mind, whether they work in an office, a factory, a hospital, or at home. To make that tribute to motherhood, we must all take responsibility for the care of our children. For many mothers who work, as my mother did, peace of mind requires affordable, quality child care. Millions of American women have full-time jobs outside the home. Three of five mothers with children under six are working to meet their obligations to their children and their employers. Juggling those responsibilities is even more difficult when quality child care is either hard to find or too expensive to afford.

That's why I've included in my balanced budget a significant new investment in child care. I urge Congress to join me in making child care better, safer and more affordable for those who need it.

To help parents find the best care for their children, today I'm releasing a report by the Department of Health and Human Services. It's a consumer guide to child care quality that recommends four steps for parents: One, interview the potential care-givers; two, check the references; three, evaluate how the care-giver meets your child's needs; and four, stay involved. As Mother's Day reminds us, governments don't raise children, parents do. There is no substitute for a mother's love or a parent's responsibility.

We, too, in the national and state governments, however, have a responsibility; a big one is to protect America's children from abuse and neglect. Nothing gives mothers peace of mind like the knowledge their children are in safe hands. Today I'm also releasing a new Justice Department set of guidelines for screening child care workers and other care-givers; and again, I urge Congress to act on a proposal I put forth to facilitate background checks on child care-givers. There is strong bipartisan support for this proposal, and I'm hopeful that members of both parties will move quickly to give America's children the care they deserve.

There is one other thing I'd like to talk about that we must do to protect our children. Fathers must take their share of responsibility, too. Children deserve to be raised by both parents, but when that's not possible, children must still receive the support they need. The unfortunate division of families cannot mean the end of child support. That's why we have worked so hard to toughen enforcement of child support laws; and, since 1992, we've raised collections by 68 percent a year.

We've worked too hard for too long toughening enforcement of child support laws to let our progress be accidentally undone. But that could happen if Congress goes ahead with one part of bankruptcy reform legislation now under consideration. I'm willing to work with Congress to pass responsible and fair bankruptcy reform. However, under one leading proposal, when a father declares personal bankruptcy, a mother may have to compete with powerful banks and credit card companies for the money they're owed. That's not the law now, and if that competition starts we all know who will lose the contest -- our children.

Parents have to step up to their responsibilities, and so does Congress. Some changes to consumer bankruptcy laws are in order, but mothers and children should keep their priority under the child support laws. They shouldn't have to stand in line for the support they need.

America's mothers hold a special place in our hearts. In return, we owe them the love and respect they have given us. On Mother's Day, we do so with cards, bouquets, and gifts. But today and every other day, we should also do everything in our power to give our mothers the peace of mind they deeply deserve.

Thanks for listening.