In-school day care seen as way to cut dropouts

October 11, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

An idea to put a day care center at Westminster High School awaits the go-ahead from the Carroll County Board of Education tomorrow so that supporters can make the plan formal and find a way to pay for it.

The proposal is from the Carroll County Coalition on Teen Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting.

The coalition is made up of representatives from social services, education and government.

Members are proposing a pilot day care center in a portable classroom adjacent to Westminster High School, said Lynda Gainor, a member of the coalition and deputy director of Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc.

The center would be for any Carroll student on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Westminster location is the most central and also is convenient to the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, and Carroll Community College.

It would care for nine infants, with a staff of three.

Schools in Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, Baltimore and Gettysburg, Pa., have such centers, Ms. Gainor said.

"The small amount of research, from the schools that [have day care centers], indicates it actually decreases the teen pregnancy rate," Ms. Gainor said. "It's because the rest of the kids see the price these students are paying to get an education.

"They're lugging not only a book bag, but a diaper bag, a car seat and the baby," Ms. Gainor said.

Girls who have babies have a tough time staying in school, she said.

The coalition found that of teen mothers who visit the prenatal clinic at the Carroll County Health Department, 73 percent drop out of school.

That compares with a dropout rate of 2.85 percent for the rest of the Carroll County student population.

Although mothers who drop out can continue their education with tutoring, night classes or other alternatives, it isn't the same as staying in high school, Ms. Gainor said.

"When you pull out of school and you replace it with private tutoring and a GED, it does not allow the socialization to develop," Ms. Gainor said.

"You don't have the wide option of classes."

The center would provide more than day care. Much like the Family Center Ms. Gainor's nonprofit agency runs on Distillery Drive, the new one would give parenting classes, counseling and other support to young mothers and fathers, she said.

"And it will teach abstinence, which is the No. 1 message of the coalition," Ms. Gainor said.

The day care and transportation to the center and back home for the mothers and babies is essential, she said.

"Infant care is very hard to find in Carroll County, no matter how much money you have," she said.

State licensing requires that a day care provider in a home or center have no more than three children under 2 years old for every adult. Few centers will take infants.

Because of those limits, it is much easier to find care for children age 2 and older, Ms. Gainor said. The proposed center would care only for infants.

Even when the mothers find the care, transportation is a problem.

This proposal would ask the schools to provide rides for the mothers and babies on the buses that are used for special education routes.

"Those buses already go to all reaches of the county," Ms. Gainor said.

If the school board approves tomorrow at its regular board meeting, she said, members of the coalition will begin making formal plans, such as which agency will take the lead in running the center.

It could be Human Services, she said, but that has not been decided.

The board will meet in the North Carroll High School auditorium at 9 a.m.

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