Save child care service

March 25, 2005

MARYLAND'S network of child care resource centers is in danger of collapse, but legislators can keep this critical program going by reversing the most recent cuts in its funding.

The regional resource centers connect parents to quality child care providers, train providers and help them open and expand their businesses. Each center has local expertise, such as working knowledge of city bus routes and the strengths of each caregiver, to help parents make smart decisions.

When the network's budget was slashed from $5.8 million in fiscal year 2003 to $3.8 million in 2004, it closed one center and dropped most of its work helping providers obtain licenses and open much-needed slots for kids. The money held steady in 2005, but the fiscal 2006 budget allots only a back-breaking $1.8 million.

Gov. Robert J. Ehrlich Jr. has included $1 million in his supplemental budget for the program. That would raise the total to $2.8 million and ensure its survival, but still doom its training and accreditation work.

But in balancing the budget, delegates removed all the additional funds; senators cut $800,000. That's short-term thinking. They must restore the $1 million when they consider the entire budget in conference committee.

It's taken 15 years to establish this nationally renowned family support framework, which just in the past year helped parents of 35,000 children and helped train 28,000 child care workers. Maryland can't afford to go backward on this.

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