Good News on Child Care

February 14, 1993

The Zoe Baird controversy brought national attention to a problem already numbingly familiar to working parents -- the difficulty of arranging good care for children. Judge Kimba Wood, we hasten to add, broke no laws yet was still judged

harshly for her own child-care arrangements.

Most working mothers are not candidates for cabinet posts, but each of them knows the special anxiety that comes from the tug of dual responsibilities. The challenge of finding good child care brings out a tangle of emotions. High expectations come crashing against the impossible dream of finding someone willing to live up to your own standards for a cost that average households can afford.

The search is always difficult, but in Maryland parents and children fare pretty well. A recent survey by Working Mother magazine placed Maryland among the 10 states that do the best job of making quality care available to all children who need it.

Maryland achieved "excellent" ratings in quality of care and commitment to improving child-care services. LOCATE, the state's computerized listing of licensed care-givers received special mention. So did the state's family-leave law providing state workers with 12 weeks off to care for a newborn or seriously ill child. And so did Annapolis' record of cooperation with the private sector to improve child care for working families.

The state's ranking for safety, a category that includes health and safety standards for family child care, immunization requirements, monitoring and enforcement, fell a notch, to a "very good" rating. With only 11 regulated spots available for every 100 children in the state, Maryland got its lowest ranking -- "good" -- for the availability of care. That figure says much about the child-care conditions throughout the country. The best availability ranking for any state was Minnesota, with only 20 spots per 100 children.

As fewer children grow up in households with parents who are home to tend to them, communities need to see to it that families have care available that allows parents the peace of mind they need to function productively at work. The public-private cooperation cited by Working Mother has been indefatigably nurtured by the Maryland Committee for Children. The results are something to celebrate, and to encourage.

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