Day Care professionals are beginning to address themselves to the needs of parents of handicapped children. When a federally funded pilot project in Northern Virginia surveyed such parents, researchers found that the majors need was for day care service. They also found, in a survey of conventional child care services, that there was very little available for working parents of handicapped children.
"Attitudes are changing. More and more programs are becoming available for parents of children with handicapping problems, but it should move along faster than it is," said Florence Lindsay, director of Special Services for the city Department of Human Resources.
She noted that National Children's Center, Hospital for Sick Children, and the National Child Day Care Association operate therapeutic day care centers for handicapped children.
"Several of the day care centers we have contracts with don't necessarily specialize in care of the handicapped but are accepting some handicapped children into their program," she reported.
Some private day are centers accept children with minimal handicaps; a very few have taken children with severe handicaps. The problem for day care centers is one of funding: They don't have the resources for consultants, additional staffing and staff training that care of the handicapped entails. However, as mainstreaming of handicapped children into the school system becomes more widespread, day care centers are feeling pressure to respond to the needs of the handicapped as well.
Head Start programs must accept, by federal mandate, handicapped children as 10 percent of their school population. Head Start programs are usually limited to the children of parents who are employed or in training and whose incomes are below the poverty level. Parents of handicapped children, however, usually need not meet income or employment requirements to qualify for the Head Start program.
Parents of handicapped children who seek day care services should contact the DHR day care intake service. 727-0868 or 727-0869, if they are eligible for subsidized care. For general information and referral on day care resources in the area, call information Center for the Handicapped, 347-4986. Closer Look, 833-4160, or the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation, 311-1346. The foundation publishes the Metropolitan Developmental Disablity Digest, which lists day care resources for parents of the handicapped.