A 3-year-old girl and her infant sister who were abandoned in a suburban Baltimore shopping mall were staying yesterday with foster parents while police searched for clues to the identity and whereabouts of the girls' parents, Baltimore County police said.

The girls were discovered sitting by a water fountain at Westview Mall on Friday afternoon by an employe of one of the mall's stores.

"The oldest girl said 'John and Mary' left them there," said Detective Raymond Ward of the police youth services division. "She said John and Mary are her parents."

Ward said police do not know the parents' last name, or their address. The older girl made some mention of Las Vegas, police said.

"I don't know why parents would do this," said Ward. "Maybe they don't love them or maybe they were watching the whole time to see that the proper authorities picked them up."

Ward said police have received dozens of tips but that none has helped police identify or locate the parents.

"Someone will say they saw a suspicious-lookig car in the parking lot, or that they saw a car with Nevada plates at the mall. We're still compiling information."

Police gave the children over to the custody of the county's Department of Social Services, which placed the children in a temporary foster home. Police and Department of Social Services officials would not divulge the address of the foster parents.

The 3-year-old girl, whose name is Brandy, was described as having brown hair, blue eyes, a striped shirt, blue shorts and blue jogging shoes.

The baby, named Kimberly, between 4 months and 7 months old, has dark brown hair, a white blouse and a diaper.

"We have to make a real effort to find the parents," said Camille Wheeler, director of the Baltimore division of the Department of Social Services. "We don't feel angry with the parents. Obviously you have a person who for whatever reason feels she can't take care of the children or that someone else can do a better job of it.

"If we can't find the parents we'll find the chldren a foster home."