Barbara Elder

[ Age 83 ] Advocate of day care for older children wrote books and helped establish child care centers in the city.

In 1973, she worked with social services to start the city's first after-school center for older children.

September 24, 2007|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,Sun reporter

Barbara Schuyler-Haas Elder, an advocate of day care for school-age children and the first director of Baltimore's Office of Children and Youth, died of lung cancer Thursday at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Bolton Hill resident was 83.

"She was passionate about her work. Children were her life," said her daughter, Cynthia Lindsay Haas-Pundel of Bolton Hill.

Ms. Elder was born in Trenton, N.J., and raised in nearby Burlington. She graduated from her hometown high school in 1939 and earned a bachelor's degree from Trenton State Teachers College in 1945.

She married James Peter Haas of Roland Park in 1944. The couple lived in Paris from 1946 to 1947 while her husband finished his engineering degree and she studied French.

When they returned to the United States, she began teaching at the New Jersey School for the Deaf. Their son Michael was born in 1948 and their daughter was born in 1952. Two years later, the family moved to Baltimore, where she had been hired as director of the Mount Washington Cooperative Nursery School and later taught at the Friends School Nursery School.

She was hired as assistant director of the Child Life Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1960 and later became director.

In 1986, The Sun wrote about her efforts. "Courses in child development were introduced for nurses and interns who had never studied the subject before," the article said of her time in the Hopkins department. In 1965, Ms. Elder was one of 10 founders of the National Association for Care of Children in Hospitals, and she co-authored a book, The Hospitalized Child and His Family. The Johns Hopkins children's center became a national model for care of children at hospitals, according to the article.

"She was one of the leaders in the field of child life," said Jerriann Wilson, who retired two years ago as director of the Child Life Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She and her first husband separated in 1965 and divorced two years later, Mr. Haas said. In 1968, she helped start the New Democratic Club. About that time, she earned a master's degree in early childhood education from the Johns Hopkins University.

In 1969, she was appointed executive director of the Maryland Committee for Day Care of Children, helping to start a day care program at Towson State College.

A year later, the city's Department of Social Services hired her to be chief of its Division of Day Care, which at the time was almost exclusively for preschool children. She became an advocate for day care centers for school-age children.

She also co-authored The Hours Between: Community Response to School Age Child Care. In 1973, she married George H. Elder Jr.

That same year, the Department of Social Services opened Baltimore's first school-age child care center in lower Park Heights. By the end of the decade, there were 15 centers serving thousands of children, The Sun reported at the time.

Federal funding for such centers began to disappear in 1981, so she moved to become director of the Community College of Baltimore's Institute for School-Age Day Care. She also co-authored another book, Half a Childhood: Time for School-Age Child Care. The book examined the effects of leaving children ages 6 to 12 on their own after school.

In 1985, she worked with Mayor William Donald Schaefer to establish an office on Children and Youth, with her as director, and make school-age child care a reality.

"Today too many kids have nothing at home," said Ms. Elder in a Jan. 19, 1986, article about her work. "Empty houses, without a caring adult in their lives, somebody to help them get on with their homework, to keep them out of mischief. We're leaving too many of these kids to simply bring up themselves."

Five months later, in May 1986, her son was fatally stabbed in a robbery during a vacation in Mexico, Ms. Haas-Pundel said.

When Mr. Schaefer became governor, Ms. Elder continued her work in the Governor's Office of Children and Youth and Families. She retired from the state office in 1990.

She was also an avid reader who liked to play bridge and complete crossword puzzles.

A memorial service and celebration of life will be held for friends and family at Ms. Elder's home on Oct. 6, her birthday.

Ms. Elder is survived by her daughter, her first husband, three granddaughters, a grandson, and six great-grandchildren. Mr. Elder died in 2005.

doug.donovan@baltsun.com

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