SANTA BARBARA, CALIF., AUG. 24 -- President Reagan named a new federal task force today with instructions to make recommendations by Nov. 22 on ways the government can encourage adoption.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, who announced the task force here while Reagan was riding at his mountaintop ranch, said it was part of the president's campaign to encourage "family values" and alternatives to abortion.
"We must expand and broaden our efforts to make sure that America's familyless children are adopted," Reagan said in a statement. "We must do all we can to remove obstacles that prevent qualified adoptive parents from accepting these children into their homes."
The statement said that the task force will analyze current federal adoption policies and state laws, and recommend whether new legislation or regulatory changes are needed.
As an example of barriers to adoption, Fitzwater cited laws in some states that he said make it difficult for single parents to adopt children. He also said that the costs of adoption are prohibitive in some states and that it is difficult to find families for handicapped children.
Mary Gall, counselor to the Office of Personnel Management, was named to chair the 13-member interagency task force, which also includes representatives from eight Cabinet-level agencies, three members of the White House staff and a representative from Action, the agency that coordinates volunteer groups.
Reagan's announcement of the task force was described by an administration official as reflecting both policy and political concerns.
On the policy level, the president and conservatives in the administration have recently taken a more activist stance on so-called social issues that have been on the back burner during much of the Reagan presidency. Reagan has attempted to show on several occasions that he is sensitive to the issues of most concern to the conservative movement, especially the abortion issue.
This view was reflected in a White House "fact sheet" that accompanied the statement appointing the task force. It said the administration "actively pursues policies that encourage and support adoption, and is especially committed to infant adoption as an alternative for pregnant women . . . . "
Such actions as appointing task forces to make recommendations to deal with longstanding problems also reflect political reality, the administration official acknowledged.
He said that new legislative initiatives are difficult to achieve with the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and less than 17 months remaining in Reagan's second term. As a result, the White House is reviewing various programs to see what can be accomplished by administrative action.
In announcing the new task force, Fitzwater said the evidence is "overwhelming" that current adoption procedures are inadequate. "Up till now the federal government hasn't taken a look at this problem," he said.
Fitzwater announced today that Reagan will leave Tuesday for Los Angeles, where he will spend the rest of the week. Reagan is scheduled to give a speech on U.S.-Soviet relations on Wednesday, meet with Nicaraguan contra leaders on Thursday and supporters of his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Robert H. Bork, on Friday. The president will return to the ranch after his Saturday radio address for another week of vacation.