Day Care Finders does the legwork of pre-screening, locating providers Service assists parents in hunt

November 12, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

For the first time, Columbia resident Alison Jameson is looking for a day-care provider outside her home, but she doesn't expect a nightmarish search.

The federal government employee has cut down on her office hours, which means she can spend more time at home with her two young daughters and trade the high cost of the family's live-in nanny for less expensive, part-time day care.

But the task of finding a trustworthy and compatible licensed day-care provider for Katrina, 18 months, and Natalie, 3, seemed daunting until Ms. Jameson discovered Day Care Finders Inc., a new referral service started by Columbia resident Laura M. Walsh.

"She's saving me so much time and effort. She's already checked them out," said Ms. Jameson, who works at Fort Meade. "Every one I call is a definite potential person. I don't have to spend time calling and visiting people who won't work out."

Ms. Jameson said she expects to employ one of the five or six providers Mrs. Walsh recommended.

Ms. Walsh, 34, began research for her home-based business a year ago when she was pregnant with her first child, Anna, now 8 months old, and anticipating the need for day care.

"I was a career person myself," said Ms. Walsh, who worked as an information systems analyst for several companies. "I didn't want to buy a nanny, and I didn't want to put my child in a crowded day-care center. The other option is licensed day-care providers. That's where I came up with the idea to offer the service."

Ms. Walsh interviews the day-care providers who express an interest in her service, and compiles a profile about the day care's environment, structure, preferred hours, sick care and insurance policies and activity and educational programs. She also gathers information about the provider's background and experience. She has evaluated about 35 of Howard's 700 licensed providers.

She also interviews the parents to determine their specific needs and preferences, then tries to make a match where a vacancy exists. She has had about 15 clients since July.

"There's total stress in trying to find day care," she said. "You have this little person all of a sudden. A lot of parents just want to stay home, but they can't. You want someone who will take real good care of the child. It's really scary."

The service also helps day-care providers who have specific needs and desires, said Columbia resident Joan Bauk, who advertised her part-time day-care service earlier this year without any luck. Ms. Walsh was able to place two families with Ms. Bauk within two weeks.

"I went from having no children to having two perfect matches," said Ms. Bauk. "When I had an ad in the paper, it was very hard to match. I was very particular.

"Laura did all the screening work. I didn't have to feel like I was discriminating against anyone. And when families came to interview me, they already had someone else's opinion of me. That makes them feel a little better."

Day Care Finders is not making a profit yet, said Ms. Walsh. She charges clients a $25 registration fee and a $75 placement fee, but expects to adjust prices later.

Ms. Walsh, whose husband James, is an attorney in Baltimore, plans to expand the business and make it her full-time occupation. Expansion plans include selling the referral service to corporations as part of a benefits package, forming alliances with hotels that provide child care for clients who travel and establishing franchises in other counties.

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