Twenty-seven-year-old Zoa V. Wilson of Westminster worked as a waitress until she landed a higher-paying job in telephone sales at RandomHouse Inc.
But Wilson was forced to quit the sales job at the Westminster company because her increased income disqualified her from child care aid for her 4-year-old son, she said.
"I was caught in the cross-fire between working for basically nothing at all or not working," said Wilson, a single mother. "It's justnot worth it to work so many hours a week and have $10 left in your paycheck."
Wilson, who was part of the state's Purchase of Care program, operated in Carroll by the Department of Social Services, was paying $50 of her son's $80 weekly day care fees when she worked as awaitress. After being dropped from the program she had to pay the full amount herself, she said.
"You're making just enough money to get thrown off any program you can get on," Wilson said. "You either have to be extremely poor or extremely wealthy."
Wilson's day care dilemma is not an unusual case, said Diane M. Arbuthnot, the administrator of the county's job training partnership program.
"Day care is certainly a major concern," Arbuthnot said. "It's a major barrier for people who are trying to leave public assistance and for a lot ofpeople in the county who want to work."
On July 1, Carroll Countybegan giving day care assistance to children of the working poor -- families considered at risk of going on welfare -- using money provided by the federal government, said Alex Jones, director of the county's social services department.
So far, 21 children from a county waiting list of 38 have received some of the federal aid, Jones said.
However, Carroll received only enough money from the $5.3 million given to the state to help pay for 27 children, he said. The remaining children will have to wait for others to drop out of the program before receiving aid.
Last month, Carroll spent $22,309 to help pay day care costs for 169 county children, Jones said. The county spent a total of $538,053 for such Purchase of Care aid last year, he said.
Still, there have been reports of children left unattended in a crib or in cars in Carroll parking lots, while their parents who cannot afford day care go to work, said Leslie E. Hinebaugh, the county's child-care coordinator.
"I know of several cases where that has happened," Hinebaugh said. "There isn't enough affordable child care for people who cannot pay, and that's the bottom line."
Although thecases are unconfirmed, it's likely that there is some truth to the reports, said James L. Clements, director of the Employee Counseling Program of Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland.
"Wouldn't it be pretty naive to say it's not happening?" he said. "It's amatter of knowing how often it's happening."
A problem for the child care industry is that restrictive regulations are coming from state legislators, said County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge.
"I know we need regulations, we want our children to be safe," Gouge said. But, she said, "The regulations have upped the cost continually. It's going to become less and less affordable to have quality day care for our children."
Businesses need to realize that day care is their concern and set up centers or benefits, Gouge said.
As a result of the concern among county officials, a discussion of the child care issue is on the agenda for the Sept. 4 meeting of the Children's Council, Hinebaugh said.
"There are always cracks, and we do have people that are falling through," Hinebaugh said. But, she said, "We're doing everything we can at the moment. There's just a big gap, and there's no answer."
WHERE TO TURN FOR DAY-CARE HELP
CARROLL COUNTY CHILD-CARE COORDINATOR
Provides free child-carereferral and information; trains child-care professionals; and acts as a resource for family day-care providers and group centers, helping them locate grant money and low-cost loans.
Leslie Hinebaugh, coordinator
Department of Citizens Services
7 Schoolhouse Ave.
Westminster, Md. 21157
848-4049, 876-3363, 875-3342, TDD 848-5355
OFFICE OF CHILD-CARE LICENSING AND REGULATIONS
Registers and licenses child-care facilities, including child-care centers, family day-care homes and private nursery schools, for compliance with health, nutrition, environment and child-development regulations.
Chris Conover, regional manager
7470 New Technology Way
Frederick, Md. 21701
CARROLL COUNTY CHILD-CARE ASSOCIATION
Provides continuing education and fosters communication among directors and owners of child-care group centers, and lobbies legislators on child-care matters.
Ann Fair, president
Carroll Child Care Centers Inc. Site 3
P.O. Box 572
Westminster, Md. 21157
CARROLL COUNTY FAMILY DAY-CARE ASSOCIATION
Helps providers start businesses, share ideas and common problems, and updates them on new legislation.
Lillian Swartzbaugh, president
606 Cherrytown Road
Westminster, Md. 21158
There are about 500 state-licensed family day-carehomes in Carroll County, serving children age 6 weeks to 12 years. Aprovider may be licensed for up to eight children.
Contact the Office of Child Care Licensing or the Carroll County Child-Care Coordinator for a listing of providers in your area.