"Carla! Hey, Carla!"

"Rachel, wait a minute. Rachel, wait or I'm going to tell on you."

"Juan, mira (look)! Venga (come)!"

The 4-year-olds were racing down the central staircase of the once-grand, turn-of-the-century stone mansion that houses the Rosemont Center in Mount Pleasant. The bilingual day-care center cares for 108 children, from infants to 5-year-olds.

Title XX funds help pay part of the costs of the center, one of 58 in the city receiving subsidies from the federal and District governments.

The group of children tearing down the stairs were off with a gift for their favorite cat - the final drops of milk in a carton.

Children at the center fill their days with all sorts of activities - from playing with blocks, riding tricycles and caring for a gerbil to dancing, painting, singing and dressing up. Other times they enjoy story-telling, nature walks or quiet chats with teachers and aides.

Children with developmental problems can spend a few hours in a special room where a program is tailored to their specific needs.

"We look at day care as preventive care," Rosemont director Louise Sullivan explains. "If we get our children off to a good start before elementary school, they won't get labeled as problems.

"We may see a big change in what happens to these children in school. There haven't beenany studies on the results of day care, but just from the informed feedback from parents about how well our children are doing in public school, I feel very hopeful."

In addition to its day-care program, Rosemont holds parent-education seminars and training sessions for people who provide child care in their homes.

Rosemont's costs are high: $4,000 a year for an infant; $3,000 for a pre-schooler. But only 25 percent of the parents pay the full fee. The others are helped by a combination of Department of Human Resources (DHR) subsidies and Title XX funds.

Because only 60 percent of Rosemont's budget is covered by DHR and Title XX funds, the rest is covered by fee-paying families and income raised through bake sales, clothing sales and other events.

Although Rosemont, which contracts with DHR to care for children from low-income families, submits a budget to DHR every year indicating its rising costs for utilities, salaries, food and repair of the facility, its funding has been frozen at the same level for several years.

The House of Mercy, a charitable group affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, owns the building and permits Rosemont to use the house rent free. However, the center pays for its utilities and for repairs.

Day-care programs in the District received about $9.5 million in local funds this year. Title XX added $450,000. As a recipient of Title XX funds, Rosemont is eligible to send its teachers and aides to federally funded training sessions.

Parents of children who attend Rosemont can apply for DHR subsidies through Rosemont, rather than going downtown to DHR offices.

"We can do intake on applications and that's very important in our neighborhood," Sullivan said.

"People don't get lost in the shuffle here. We have many families who only speak Spanish and we can help them fill out the forms and then send the papers on to DHR. Our parents seem to feel its more personalized here. They don't feel any "welfare" stigma that they might feel downtown. "

If DHR decides the family is eligible, based on its income, the parents can apply to any District day-care center that contracts with DHR for subsidized care. Payments go directly from DHR to the center. CAPTION: Picture 1, The Rosemont Center in Mount Pleasant. By Craig Herndon - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Three pals: Kim Littlepage, Imani Scope, Charles Cisneros. By Craig Herndon - The Washington Post