Sherry Carter took her son, Lavar Clark, to work with her yesterday morning at Baltimore County General Hospital.
But Lavar, 4, didn't spend the day in the Radiology Department where his mother works as a clerk. Instead, he was across the street at the Randallstown hospital's new day-care center, standing in the outdoor playground next to a shiny plastic sliding board and happily announcing, "Ahhhh! Here's a bug."
Known as The Kid's Place, the 9,000-square-foot center opened yesterday and is sponsored by the hospital for its employees.
Although it is on the grounds of Baltimore County General, the center was constructed by and is owned and operated by the Kid's Place Inc., a Bethesda company that has three other
centers in the state.
Yesterday, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden and other state and local officials hailed the center as a model public-private venture.
Ms. Carter found a much more practical significance in the center. No longer will she have to make two separate bus trips every morning -- the first to get her son to his day care, the second to get to her job at the hospital.
Now, they need only one bus trip.
"The bus just dropped us off at the corner," she said, nodding in the direction of Old Court Road, "and we walked down the street together."
Having an on-site day-care facility will help the hospital attract nurses and other employees, said Mark Shugarman, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the hospital. "It's good for recruitment and retention of the staff and it helps employees' morale," he said. "About 80 percent of the employees at the hospital are female, so child care is a big concern to them."
The center was built with the help of a $135,000 direct loan and other loan guarantees from the state Department of Economic and Employment Development's day-care financing programs.
It is one of the largest in the state built under these funding programs. Since their inception in 1989, the programs have lent $1.3 million to 14 local day-care centers.
"The state's role is to support efforts like this -- not to build them, but to support them," Governor Schaefer said during yesterday's ribbon-cutting ceremony.
State Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat, added a personal note to the ceremony. She once worked as a nurse at the hospital but quit her job 28 years ago to stay home and take care of her then-6-month-old child.
"If we'd had day care back then, maybe I'd still be here," she said.
Thirty children, ranging in age from infancy through 9 years, are enrolled at the center. When it is filled, the center will hold 140 children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years.
Weekly fees at the center, which is open to both hospital employees and members of the local community, range from $137 for infants to $87 for school-age children, but hospital employees receive a discount, a hospital spokesman said.
The center features indoor and outdoor playgrounds designed for three different age groups, child-height sinks and water fountains, a sunroom, and two-way mirrors so parents and others can view the children without being seen.
Parents may visit the center whenever their schedules allow. Yesterday, Ms. Carter was taking extra time before starting work at 1 p.m. to make sure her son was happy in his new day-care center.
"I thought he was going to cry," Ms. Carter said. "He was crying when he first started his other day care. But he just said, 'Bye, Mommy.' "