About 35 mothers took their young children to the District Building yesterday to confront officials of the city's Department of Human Services over proposed cutbacks in the city's daycare programs.
The group was protesting plans to eliminate day-care center slots for 91 infants in order to divert funds to the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program.
The mothers angrily confronted DHS acting director William Whitehurst and acting socal services commissioner Audrey Rowe in a tense hour-long session in the City Council chambers.
Rowe told them that despite the cutbacks, all children currently in day-care programs would continue to receive the service.
But the mothers objected to DHS plans that would place the infants in city-sanctioned private day-care homes throughout the city, instead of at the centralized centers.
Debra Fields, 23, said she wanted her 20-month-old son, Andre, to remain in the day-care program at the Catholic Charities Model Cities Center at 1125 Neal St. NE, instead of being placed in a private home, even if the home was regularly inspected by the city.
"I don't like that idea at all," Fields said. "It gets the kids away from the group environment they need, gets them away from trained, well-qualified teachers."
City regulations prohibit placing more than two infants -- defined as children under 2 years old -- in a single day-care center. The cutbacks would mean that 21 infants from the Model Cities Center must be transferred.
"They have nice sports equipment at the center, a nice lunchroom, good facilities," Fields said. "And they show the kids they care. Who else is going to hang the little picture your child drew on their walls?"
Several of the women complained that they would rather take their children out of the day-care program than have them placed in private homes. Some said that for them this would mean giving up jobs, schooling and a chance to get off the welfare rolls.
Row told the group she would explore ways of saving the necessary $175,000 from the infant care program without moving the children. According to city officials, the AFDC program needs an additional $6 million -- including the savings in day care -- to meet its costs for the fiscal year.
The cutbacks in day care were outlined in Mayor Marion Barry's program designed to help the city avoid a projected $172.4 million budget deficit.