Good program needs to be kept goingCritics of "big...

the Forum

October 14, 1994

Good program needs to be kept going

Critics of "big" government, coming from various sides of the political spectrum, cite the inability or unwillingness of bureaucracies to live within their means as the major cause of swollen budgets and higher taxes.

Because of that, perhaps my confusion as a new secretary of a large state agency can be understood, if not forgiven, when my )) first attempt to bring a program under fiscal control is blocked by a legislative committee and greeted by "shame on you" editorials in The Sun and The Evening Sun.

The program in question is child care -- sometimes referred to as day care -- unquestionably one of the more crucial services provided by the Department of Human Resources.

Far from being a luxury, it is essential to efforts to move parents off welfare and into work and to keep the "working poor" working. It is also a valuable tool in assisting teen parents to complete education and relieving some pressure points of parents who neglect or abuse their children.

It is important that the spotlight being thrown across this program not fail to show how successful it has been under the leadership of Governor William Donald Schaefer.

In 1988, approximately 8,000 children were receiving child care services throughout the state at a cost of under $20 million. In 1994, 25,000 children receive care at a cost of $65 million.

Because of the increased commitment of funds and the ambitious range of coverage, Working Mother magazine has for two years running lauded Maryland as one of the top 10 states in the nation for child care.

So what's the problem? If something is this good, why not make more of the same? Because government cannot provide everything for everybody, nor should it. Because programs should not grow without checks and balances.

For the past two fiscal years Governor Schaefer has "saved" child care through emergency appropriations. That practice cannot continue.

For next year, we project a deficit that could reach $14 million due to the growth of the population of children in the child care age group, the growth of Project Independence (Maryland's federally mandated program to move people off welfare into jobs) and welfare reform.

There are solutions which would not affect the majority of the children currently being served. Those solutions were presented the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review committee -- proposals which would allow some of the 4,000 children currently on our waiting list to receive benefits while weaning those whose parents are earning in excess of $21,000 off the system.

Currently we serve parents who earn up to $31,000. In addition, we think it is not unreasonable to ask parents and relatives receiving free child care who can afford to share some of the cost.

These are changes which must be made, regardless of whether they are made now or next year. But the longer we wait, the costlier it becomes.

The governor has come to the rescue in the past, and his commitment is genuine. However, it is our responsibility and that of the legislature to set in place the controls which will keep this program from becoming a burden so great that it collapses under its own weight.

Luther W. Starnes

Baltimore

C7 The writer is Maryland's human resources secretary.

Love of the game

How long is everyone going to keep moaning about the baseball strike, the hockey lockout, a possible basketball strike, etc.?

If you can't stand the darkness, light a candle. I invite anyone wanting to enjoy good sports to come watch the soccer games sponsored by the IHM/Loch Raven Recreation Council or any of the other local sports leagues for kids and adults.

Not only is the action fast and furious, but if you want to experience the thrill of sports you can participate by being a coach or referee.

During the summer, while everyone was waiting for the end of the baseball strike, I had the pleasure of coaching one of the local travel baseball teams for kids.

Not only did I get to see the beauties of all the little league baseball fields in the county, but I got to pretend I was Johnny Oates, manager par excellence. Nothing at Camden Yards could match it.

Sports are meant for participation. Get off your duffs and get involved. I guarantee you won't miss the multi-million dollar players when you are involved with kids who really do play for the love of the game.

Harold Franklin

Towson

MTO research

As a policy analyst who hopes her work may contribute toward the solution of public problems, I was pleased to see a general reference to my research in "An opportune move for the poor" (Oct. 3) by Barbara Samuels and Susan Goering.

However, I want to make certain that my research results are not misconstrued. Although it is highly plausible that neighborhood conditions affect the lives of residents in various ways, research findings to date are inconsistent and inconclusive.

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