When Lenora McDermott opened her own day-care center after 24 years in the field, she took a few tips from the Department of Defense.
The U.S. Army and Air Force might seem unlikely sources for learning how to run day care, but McDermott looked to their programs as modelsfor her own.
In McDermott's eyes, day-care centers for defense department workers got better marks in organization and efficiency than non-government centers. And she believes that an efficiently run center means a better environment for children.
So, when she and her daughter, Mariann, opened Crofton Child Development Center in 1990 and Cloverleaf Child Development Center in Millersville two weeks ago, she knew justwhat she wanted.
First, she wanted to accept children on a part-time and full-time basis. As far as she knows, hers are the only centers in Anne Arundel County that care part time for children as young as 6 weeks old.
And she wanted a layout of several adjoining rooms,all well-stocked with toys and equipment appropriate to the age of children in that area, with each room separated from the next by doorsand observation windows. McDermott has arranged the largest room, for 2- to 6-year olds, in areas for housekeeping, blocks, library, science, riding toys and eye-hand coordination toys.
The center has a capacity of 66, for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years, and limits registration to 120.
Children take part in set activities determined by their age. A cook prepares breakfast, lunch and a snack for all thechildren.
The availability of part-time care boosted the Crofton center's enrollment to such an extent that McDermott found herself expanding the center six months after she opened it. Now, it accommodates up to 84 children. She believes she might need to expand again next spring.
Part-time care means that with a reservation at least 48hours in advance, a parent can bring a child to the center and pay for the care on a daily or hourly basis. Some of McDermott's part-timechildren come a few days a week on a regular basis, while others come intermittently for just a few hours.
One mother who uses the center is a flight attendant who needs day care for her child only eightdays a month. Others work part time on set days or only afternoons, when they bring their children in. Yet others use McDermott's day care only when they have an appointment and need to leave their child with someone briefly, McDermott said.
She stresses that Cloverleaf is not a drop-in center, where parents would bring children without a reservation, for example in emergencies. The state restricts centers with infants from being drop-in centers.
McDermott got the idea for part-time care from her work in defense department day-care centers. The government recruited her for one, at Ramstein Air Force Base inGermany, where she worked for six years.
Before opening her own centers, she headed two day-care centers, 90 day-care homes and an after-school program at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.
The new Cloverleaf center, in the Cloverleaf Business Park on Route 3, charges $125 a week for infants, $95 for toddlers and $85 for preschoolers.
The center charges by the day, too, $28 for infants, $26 for toddlers and $24 for preschoolers.
By the hour, the rates drop to $3 for infants, $2.75 for toddlers and $2.50 for preschoolers.