The interviewer began asking Robert E. Simon Jr., the creator of new towns, why he was so involved in day care.

"Don't call it day care," Simon interrupted gently. "It could be provided 24 hours a day. It's child care."

As for his continued relationship with the Reston Children's Center years after his association with the town of Reston ended, perhaps that's not so unusual. Like Reston, the children's center is one of Simon's creations.

In fact, child care was part of Simon's original blueprint for Reston -- along with a mix of jobs, stores, housing, neighborhood ballfields and tennis courts and a network of paths that tied the diverse development together.

But the children's center was always quartered in borrowed space.

As director Madeline Fried said: "Bob started the center. He saw it grow and thrive. But he did leave it homeless."

To help the center find a permanent home, Simon has agreed to lead a $450,000 building fund drive. The center already has $51,000, he said, for land in the Hunters Woods section of Reston.

When Simon talks about the children's center or child care in general, he sounds as enthusiastic as if he were boosting another new town proposal.

"All children between the ages of zero and six with working parents need a place where they can have enriched educational experiences," he says. "One way to do it is have . . . a staff of teachers with master's degrees who provide this wonderful experience in an institutional setting five days a week.

"The result is very few children get such experience. You can't do all this in an institution. You can't afford to build all those buildings. So you take the existing institution and improve it."

What you do, said Simon, is to create a "satellite program" that takes child care into homeby selecting persons who provide the care, "training them and supervising them. It can take place in the home seven days a week, 24 hours a day."

The Reston center doesn't quite have the seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day program.

"He's a dreamer," says director Fried, whose supervised, home-based program -- the only one in Northern Virginia and one of the few in the country -- starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m.

Fried says 62 of the center's 182 children are cared for in homes.

"Some children do better in different settings," she said. "With a satellite program, they can get care in their own community, close to their school."

Child care is offered in hundreds of Fairfax County homes, but as Fried says, "Virginia regulations (regarding the kinds of activities, etc. that must be provided) are very, very minimal -- they are among the lowest in the nation."

"The need is always met," said Simon, "but not always the way we would want it done."