When Mary Zaleski had trouble finding day care for her four children about three years ago, she quit her job managing a toy store and went into the day-care business full time.
These days, she watches five children in her Rosedale town house. As word got around the neighborhood that she was offering the service, she found herself more and more in demand.
Two families are on her waiting list. A third mother says she is not likely to give birth until a space opens up in Mrs. Zaleski's home, which is licensed by the state and inspected annually by a county fire official.
"There's a very serious shortage of day care.. . . Ask any working parent what it's like to find someone," Mrs. Zaleski said.
She came to a Baltimore County Council work session yesterday to persuade council members to amend county zoning codes to increase from six to eight the maximum number of children permitted in licensed day-care homes.
"If you over-regulate them, if you make it hard for these providers to do business, it's just going to send them underground," where they will operate outside of government regulation, said Mrs. Zaleski, who is president of the Baltimore County Family Day Care Association.
State and county officials testified yesterday in support of the bill.
"We've found there's always a shortage of day-care slots," said Frank W. Welsh, director of the Baltimore County Department of Community Development.
He and others say the change would make county codes consistent with a July 1989 state law that increased the maximum number of children permitted in day-care homes from six to eight.
The state law specifies that no more than two children under age 2 may be permitted in any family day-care home. It also specifies that the number of children a home may have will depend on the findings of an in-home review by an inspector with the state Department of Human Resources' child care administration. The law requires periodic inspections for fire safety, cleanliness and to ensure the children's health and safety needs are being met.
The measure is expected to pass, though the council may amend the bill to require that at least two of the children be age 5 or older in homes that are licensed to care for eight children.
The amendment was introduced after council members William A. Howard IV, R-6th, and Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st, expressed concern about whether one adult would be able to evacuate eight toddlers from a home safely if there were a fire.