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Parents struggle to find child care

January 03, 1998

Parents struggle to find child care

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

Mark and Teresa Miller were faced with a dilemma when they had their second child 10 months ago.

Should they put little Joshua and his brother, Adam, 7, in day-care? Or should Teresa Miller quit her $9-an-hour job?

The couple just wasn't happy with their day-care choices so she decided to stay home and count her pennies.

"It wasn't really worth it to us to make those sacrifices," said Teresa Miller, 39, who lives north of Hagerstown.

Infant care is the most difficult type of day-care to find, according to Washington County child care authorities.

It's also the most expensive. It would have been $95 a week for the Millers to put Joshua in day-care and another $75 a week for Adam.

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Some parents are sensitive about putting such a young child in another person's care.

"I actually think parents feel more guilty leaving an infant," said Paul Pittman Jr., executive director of the Western Maryland Child Care Resource Center.

The center, which helps match up parents with day-care providers, gets more than 50 calls a month from parents looking for infant care.

Most people are looking for family child-care providers, those who care for children at their home. There are 483 in the county.

Infant care is in such great demand because an in-home care provider is allowed to watch no more than two babies at a time, Pittman said.

Behind that rule is the idea that a provider has to be able to carry both babies out in case of fire.

Also, some in-home providers chose not to take infants, said Mary McPherson, president of the Washington County Family Child Care Providers Association.

"It takes a lot more energy," she said.

McPherson said she takes infants just because she likes taking care of babies.

"I feel sorry for any mother now trying to find child care for an infant," she said.

Many people turn to relatives for support, Pittman said.

Others, like Cheryl and William Scrivener, who live near Smithsburg, feel like they'll never find someone who meets their criteria.

"Realistically, the providers who have cared for my children have been quite competent. (But) I'm their mother and I don't think anyone else matches up," said the Hagerstown Junior College professor.

This month, Willy, 3, and Ellie, 16 months, will go under the care of a sister-in-law.

"The comfort level is there more than it has been," she said.

Some people send their children to day-care centers, like the new one at Citicorp.

"Not every company can afford that. Most companies can't," Pittman said.

The day-care problem isn't just local.

President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton focused attention on the issue at a White House conference in October.

The conference highlighted research showing that higher quality care for children under 3 was related to high levels of mental and speech development.

"I never thought I'd see the day when the president was talking about child care," Pittman said.

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