Child-care measure OK'd by delegates


Bill would allow state to check care centers

Legislation that would make it easier for the state to inspect thousands of unlicensed child-care homes has passed the Maryland House of Delegates and been sent to the Senate.

The child-care bill, passed on an 84-40 vote, would authorize the state to get search warrants to inspect child-care centers if officials suspect children are not getting proper care.

Del. John Arnick, D-Balto. Co., told the House there are thousands of unlicensed day-care centers in Maryland. Most are in homes and run by women who take care of a few children.

Opponents were worried that some Department of Human Resources investigators might use the search warrants to harass women who take care of just two or three children.

"Basically what we are talking about is coming into folks' homes," said Del. Elijah Cummings, D-City.

But Arnick said the search warrants would be difficult to obtain and would be granted only when there was evidence that a serious problem existed.

"The state must first have a complaint. Then they must be refused entry," he said. "They have to go to the attorney general. They have to go to the judge."

Asked about the need for search warrants, Arnick related one case in which 57 children were being cared for by just two adults. He said it took state officials a year to get into the home, where children under 3 years were tied to chairs and older children were left virtually unattended to watch television. Responding again to his critics, Gov. William Donald Schaefer visited two Eastern Shore newspapers this week and stopped at an Eastern Shore diner to speak with the owner, who had publicly criticized him.

"His visit was certainly confrontational," said Mary Valliant, assistant editor of the Easton Star Democrat. "He seemed to want to face his accusers in person. But he also confuses our editorial stance with some of the letters we receive from our readers, which admittedly can be extremely critical."

Schaefer visited the Easton paper Monday and said he wanted to meet the paper's editor "eye to eye." The Star Democrat has published editorials criticizing the governor for what it has called his liberal spending policies and insensitivity to the Eastern Shore.

Schaefer also stopped in Salisbury at the Daily Times, where he expressed concern about public reaction to him on the Eastern Shore, said editor Mel Toadvine. "He doesn't understand why," Toadvine said.

Toadvine said the governor "made no apologies" for his recent remark in which he compared the Eastern Shore to an outhouse.

Schaefer has been irritated with the Eastern Shore since he lost seven of nine Eastern Shore counties in the November election.

Schaefer also stopped for lunch Monday at Tom's To Go in Easton. Owner Tom Pinto, quoted in a recent published report as criticizing Schaefer, said his conversation with the governor was "not amiable, but cordial."

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