Relative Needs

It's off to Grandma's house -- but not for the holiday. For work.

Grandparents top day-care centers, family day care and preschools as the No. 1 source of child care for young children, according to a new Census Bureau report based on winter 2002 data. While 28.3 percent of all working women turned to their parents or in-laws to care for their young children, one-third of Hispanic and Asian working women relied on the close relatives.

Daddy is the working mom's next-most-popular choice. Grandma and other relatives have been favored sources of child care since 1985. One option increasingly not chosen: In 1985, 8 percent of mothers cared for their own children while working. In the latest report, that proportion fell to 3.2 percent.

"My mother is our larger backup" for school vacations and overnight travel, said Colette G. Matzzie, a Takoma Park lawyer who has twin 3-year-old boys.

The boys go to a private preschool, and she's looking for an energetic, responsible caregiver from 3 to 6 p.m. Matzzie says she'd love to have Grandma care more often, but her mom lives five hours away.

-- Vickie Elmer