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Information Hot-Line for Befuddled Parents

HOW do you get your 7th-grader motivated to do his homework? Where do you find out how the schools rate in a city you've just moved to? How do you help your child make the transition from pre-school to kindergarten?

Those are just some of the questions the educational counselors at Work/Family Directions are asked by parents across the country.

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The Boston-based company started this call-in service two years ago with three counselors and three clients, or companies. Now it has 16 counselors and 100 companies participating. "The hottest issue for us at the moment is school-age and educational issues," says Fran Sussner Rodgers, Work/Family's CEO. "Some of the greatest difficulties people have as they try to work productively and care for their families come out in school-age children, not infants."

Companies buy the service as part of a benefits package or as a separate service. Employees then have access to an 800-number that connects them with trained counselors who help them solve a range of problems for children from kindergarten through college-age.

Michelle McDonald, a consumer banker with Nations Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, used the service last year for her two-year-old son.

"I'm not familiar with the schools in our area, and I wanted to know how they rated with other schools in the country. That's something they were able to help me with," Ms. McDonald says. "When the time comes, I'm pretty positive where we'll send him."

So far, about 17,000 parents have called with questions, says Andrea Glovsky, one of the education specialists or counselors. "We've had every call imaginable," she says. "We have a list of about 30 issues that we've identified that are very common." The top three, she says, are related to finding a school; college and post-secondary counseling; and motivating adolescents.

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