It was the day three years ago she found a dozen or so youngsters --her grandson included -- in an unlicensed day care house with no adult in sight and one child tossing a flaming napkin into the sink thatset off Kathy Bock.
"That's when I decided I was going to take care of him," she said.
Now she runs her own licensed day care center in two rooms added on to the rear of her tiny rancher in Linthicum. She crusades for other unlicensed day care providers to register with the state's Child Care Administration.
"People that are unregistered," she said, "arenot bad people, but for some reason, they just don't want to be bothered. They don't want to have anyone looking into their background. Ijust think it's so simple."
Clarence Brown, a spokesman for the administration, said there are 11,000 licensed day care providers in Maryland -- 787 in Anne Arundel County -- and estimates there are twice as many unlicensed and unregulated throughout the state.
The state is now offering amnesty to all unregistered day care providers in hopes of convincing them to comply with the regulations by the end ofthis month.
"We wanted a way to get people to recognize the importance of being registered and to actually do it," explained Helen Szablya, a spokeswoman for the administration.
Thus far, she said, about 300 have made inquiries and 150 have registered, 40 of them in Anne Arundel County, since the beginning of January.
Those who aren't registered by the end of February could be fined up to $1,000. If you're accepting money for caring for only one child other than your own, you must be registered, Szablya added.
To receive state licenses, providers must go through training on state regulations, child care and development. Their facilities must pass fire and licensing inspections to ensure that they have proper safety equipment and suitable toys.
Authorities also run a medical and criminal check on everyone who lives in the house.
"They're looking for violent crimes --sexual abuse, arsonists, things like that," Szablya said. "People who shouldn't be around children."
The registration process should give parents some comfort because they know "someone else has gone through with a different set of eyes and checked things out," she said.
"You know they have proper locks and doors and fire extinguishers and understand the idea of a healthy, nutritious lunch. There are people who think a steady diet of Cracker Jacks, Kool-Aid and TV is justfine."
Bock, who had wanted to keep her job as a secretary while caring for her grandson, took the youngster to the mother of a friendof her daughter's, where other working mothers dropped off their children.
"I didn't even know what day care was back then," recalled Bock, the mother of six children. "I didn't know about providers. I didn't know anything. I have since been educated."
She was uncomfortable with the situation in which she left her grandson. The house was overrun with children. When she came to pick him up, the mother couldn't find him. Once, she found him, asleep and wet, under a chair with a coat thrown over him.
"One day, I walked in and there were 13or 14 kids in a booth in the kitchen. One kid was standing there with something burning in her hand. . . . I said, 'Where's your mother?'
"The girl said she had to go out, but she'd be right back. I grabbed my grandson and left. I was absolutely destroyed."
She resigned from her job to take care of her grandson during the day and began taking evening courses in day-care management at Anne Arundel Community College. She used her sick leave, vacation pay and unemployment pay until she could finance the addition to the back of the house and open a center with her daughter, Mary Elizabeth.
They started Rainbow World Day Care two years ago.
Today, Bock is vice president of the Anne Arundel County Family Day Care Association and teaches orientation courses for new day-care providers.
"When I go in, I go in fully armed," she said. "I've got sample contracts, car seats, tax books, all the basic things you need to start with. People don't seem to understand what's involved, that it's an altogether different ball game taking care of other people's children than taking care of your own."
The background checks may frighten some potential providers,she concedes. But, she said, "They aren't going into your dark, dark, dark past."
And she acknowledged that some "don't like the idea of having people check up on you."
"But if you're doing it right, what do you care?" she asked.
And yes, the forms and the contractsand the record keeping are an awful lot of paperwork, she said. "Butyou just do it. It's my business," she said, "and I don't mind working overtime for my business."