ANNAPOLIS – About 100 child care advocates rallied in front of the State House Friday to try to persuade lawmakers to restore budget cuts to the state’s child care locator before it has to close.
“We came down on our day off to let the senators and delegates know that parents need help searching for child care,” said Fanny Crawford, executive director of child care centers in Garrett and Allegany Counties. “And providers need help to stay in business.”
The locater, Maryland Child Care Resources and Referral Network, helped the parents of 35,000 children find child care last year. It was also the first such state agency to receive national accreditation.
There are 12 child care centers throughout Maryland with comprehensive databases for finding the best child care to suit each family’s needs, including proximity, nearby schools or number of children.
“They literally give you someone that lives in the same area as you,” said Ebony Green, a single mother of two from Baltimore City. “I found someone that lived directly around the corner from me.”
Those who rallied were fighting to keep the network open after a $2 million cut to its current $3.8 million budget. The governor restored $1 million in his supplemental budget, and the workers want to see that preserved.
“We can’t maintain the network if we don’t get the whole $1 million back,” said Sandy Skolnik, executive director of Maryland Committee for Children, the non-profit agency that runs the child care network.
The training the network provides is just as important as locating quality child care, said Peg Anawalt, executive director of child care centers in the Upper Shore.
The training helps parents and child care providers know what is appropriate to teaching children at all ages, she said.
“They don’t have a lot of background,” she said. “Some people think we should be teaching reading to 18-month-olds.”
Child care workers covered the steps of the State House and clapped whenever they saw a senator or delegate who has supported the network.
“Thank you Sen. (Thomas) Middleton.” “Thank you Sen. (Nancy) Jacobs.”
The senators smiled and waved when they walked by the crowd.
They buttonholed other legislators, told them their story and asked for their support.
It might be too late for the network to be restored, said Delegate Tawanna Gaines, D-Prince George’s, the vice chairwoman of the House Health and Human Resources subcommittee.
She said her committee removed the $1 million because they did not know the money was important. She said money in the governor’s supplemental budget contains either “wants” or “needs” of people.
“Today, I found out it was on the ‘definitely need’ list,” Gaines said.
Still, the chairwoman of the Senate’s Health and Human Services subcommittee said she will fight to restore the money.
“I’m a warrior for the Senate,” said Sen. Gloria Lawlah, D-Prince George’s. “I will give it all I got.”