Md. introduces child-care network

January 29, 1991|By David Conn

The Maryland Child Care Resource Network was introduced yesterday with a slick television commercial, a kind word from the governor and hopes for a share of $30 million in federal child-care money coming to Maryland in the next three years.

Not all of the money, allocated as federal child-care development block grants, will go directly to the network, a statewide clearinghouse for training, marketing and information about child care in Maryland. State officials will decide this week where to spend the roughly $10 million a year in federal money included in the child-care bill passed last fall.

But founders of the Maryland project, three years in the planning, note that the network, the first such effort in the nation, is likely to win more attention from the state government than any other recipient.

"The establishment of the network has really created a model for the nation," said Richard E. Hug, chairman of the project and of Environmental Elements Corp.

Comprising three centers -- in Baltimore, Hagerstown and Landover -- the network eventually could include 12 centers throughout the state, Mr. Hug said. He said the network will:

* Help parents find child-care alternatives.

3' * Provide training for child-care professionals.

* Conduct marketing and community planning to increase the availability of child-care programs.

* Help open individual programs.

* Help employers create work-family programs for employees needing child-care.

* Provide education to help people become better parents.

The need for child care in Maryland "has exploded" in the last two decades, according to a report the network prepared. In 1989, 77 percent of Marylanders younger than 12 -- about 600,000 children -- had working mothers, the report says, but there are programs to care for only 110,880 children.

The network was the brainchild of a council of city, state, labor and private-sector contributors, including the chairmen of PHH Corp., Legg Mason Inc., Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland Inc., The Baltimore Sun and Primerica Corp.

Funding for the program was a concern at the start, according to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who was on hand for yesterday's ceremonies. "The private sector thought the state should fund it. We thought the private sector should fund it," he said. "We reached a compromise where both had a stake in it."

The compromise was that the General Assembly agreed in 1989 and 1990 to pay $4 million toward setting up the network if an additional $3 million in private money could be found.

"This is the first time any place in America that the business community went to government with a plan to provide a child-care network," said Sandy Skolnik, executive director of the Maryland Committee for Children Inc., which the Maryland Department of Human Resources picked to run the statewide project, as well as the Baltimore center.

The network has been at work unofficially since September and has helped more than 2,600 children.

The project aired a public-service television commercial yesterday to encourage potential day-care workers with the line, "Why not work at a career you can care about?" The commercial included a toll-free number for information, (800) 766-4900.

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