WESTMINSTER — Trying to demonstrate the need for affordable, quality child care, county government employees took state Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-5, on atour of their child-care center here on Friday.
"Today, we just want to make the senator aware of how important our child-care programs are," said Leslie Hinebaugh, child-carecoordinator for the county.
"We want him to know what we are doing, its importance, and what they (our legislators) can do to help," she said.
As part of "OpenDoor for Day Care," an event sponsored by the Maryland Committee forChildren Inc., Haines was invited to the center to see firsthand what impact quality child-care can have on the children of working parents.
The Maryland Committee for Children Inc., which is based in Baltimore, is a private, non-profit organization that has worked to increase the affordability, availability and quality of child care since1945.
Haines had the opportunity to observe the center and the 27children who use it. The children ranged in age from 6 weeks to 5 years, Hinebaugh said.
"We want to show you what we feel is developmentally important," she told the state senator. "We feel that each child needs the proper stimulation at various ages which will eventually help them with those skills they will need when they get to school."
Haines and Hinebaugh were joined during the tour by Joyce Wendl,executive director of the center, and Carol Poole, administrative assistant for Carroll Child Care Centers Inc., a Westminster-based organization that operates the county government's child-care center.
The center was opened in April. It provides daily, developmental activities for children at different age levels. Haines watched children participate in a variety of activities, including drawing, painting, cutting, pasting, storytelling and singing.
"From birth to age 6 is a critical time, and quality child care is a
priority," Haines told the three women. "We have to make certain that funding is properly allocated in these priority areas and child care in my opinion is one of those areas."
During the visit, Hinebaugh expressed concern that many people who are working do not earn enough to pay for child care.
For instance, one child-care subsidy program -- Purchase of Care, which is funded by state and federal governments -- bases eligibility on financial guidelines established eight years ago.
"Rightnow we are using the 1983 poverty guidelines, which state a family of four cannot make more than an annual net salary of $10,958 to qualify for full child-care payment," Hinebaugh said. "This income eligibility should be higher. We should be using the 1991 guidelines."
The 1991 poverty guidelines state that an annual gross salary for a family of four is $13,382.
"This needs to be adjusted to correspond with current levels," Haines said. "I am not sure at this time what would be the best plan. That's something that will have to be researched when the (General Assembly) goes back into session in January."
Right now, about 5,000 children are being cared for through53 programs and 517 family providers in the county. Haines said he was surprised to learn there were that many children in child care.
"To be honest, I am surprised at the number of those employed in the child-carefield," he said of the 700 to 900 people employed in the child-care industry in Carroll.