Q. "I am thinking about working in a day-care system in the D.C. area. I like the concept of the home satellite program in Northern Virginia and would like to know if there is a similar program in Maryland or the District.
"Also, what other types of day care are available in the area and how does one find the individual programs?"
A. There are so few day-care centers and so many children to be cared for that satellite centers have been a natural -- and ingenious -- answer.
Traditionally, many children have been cared for in the homes of relatives and neighbors or by someone who has advertised her service, but a satellite center is day care with a difference. It's on a small family scale with big-agency supervision.
It is not only licensed by the government, but there is a central administration that oversees a group of these homes -- paying the salaries and expenses; supplying substitutes and special training; making home visits and enlisting the little centers in the U.S.D.A. food program, to make sure the children have good nutrition.
The Reston Children's Center -- a pioneer in the field -- has 18 satellites who take care of 60 children before and after school and on school holidays. The satellite leaders -- called providers -- also are welcome to take the children to the center for any special activity, like a cooking class, a field trip or a movie. Another Reston group -- PALS -- has a center too, and satellite services for eight children under 2 years old -- the age when home care, if it's good, is best for a child.
It's Northern Virginia Community College, however, that probably has done the most with its family day care program, although it's not quite a year old.
They have 50 homes where licensed providers -- many of whom have college degrees -- take care of 70 children, from 6 weeks to 3 years old. These providers are required to take a 40-hour training course for college credit before they qualify. There also are monthly workshops for them and for the parents, as well as counseling and a great deal of supervision.
In Prince George's and Montgomery Counties the supervision is given by the counties themselves. Montgomery licenses about 600 family day-care homes and Prince George's licenses another 450, but there are no agencies that give a special support system to a group of homes.
There are, however, two private groups in the District which do have satellite centers.
Catholic Charities has placed 40 children in nine homes (they need two more) and has a day-care center too. Children are screened for problems in vision, speech, hearing and development before they are accepted. The education coordinator goes into the home to teach each provider extra skills.
The biggest of all, Family and Child Services, operates all over Washington and the suburbs, with 215 children cared for in 56 homes, two of which have Spanish-speaking providers. As in many day-care programs, the fee is based on income (although parents of handicapped children often pay much less since their other child-care expenses can be so high).
In addition, the United Planning Organization operates 27 similar small-scale centers, for children of CETA trainees in the District.
The Washington Child Development Council, a private support group for day-care centers, is considering starting some family day-care homes too. To learn more about the council, you might enjoy "Hooray for Kids" from 1-6 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Park, 11th and East Capitol Streets. There will be a balloon launch, among other things, with a prize to the child whose balloon goes furthest. Besides the hoopla, many day-care centers will have booths set up with information.
More information also is available from Northern Virginia Community College, which has two free brochures: "Satellite Family Day Care" and "How Do We Choose A Family Day Care Provider?" You can get them by writing to the program's coordinator, Betsy Shelsby, 5554 Port Royal Rd., Suite 203, Springfield, Va., 22151.
And, for the most information on day care you can find, there is the much-expanded, much-needed metropolitan Washington Area Directory by Carolyn M. Aldrich (Camal Enterprises, $7.95) which also includes Charles, Howard, Loudoun and Prince William Counties. The 314-page paperback reviews more than 275 groups that affect children and is available at some local bookstores and by mail order. You can get it by sending a check to Box 147, Fairfax Station, Va. 22039, and include an extra dollar for shipping, plus 32 cents' tax if you live in Virginia.