In the wake of reports of the sexual abuse of children in day care centers across the country, the Prince George's County Police Department and County Executive Parris N. Glendening yesterday announced a new education program for parents of small children.

The program, called SCATE -- Stop Child Abuse Through Education -- is aimed at teaching parents of preschool children how to choose day care facilities, how to recognize the signs of child abuse and what to do once the signs show up.

Sgt. Kenneth Savoid, head of the safety program, said yesterday that the program was created in response to recent requests for information by parents and day care directors.

Officer Betty Mints, who also works in the safety division, said officers have been speaking to elementary school children about abuse for the last five years, and that those presentations have often prompted children to tell officers that they have been abused.

In 1983, county police received 321 reports of child abuse; as of September this year, they already had 305 reported cases.

Mints said about 60 percent of child abuse cases are sexual in nature.

Specialists in this field agree that the increase in reported cases may be due to greater awareness of the problem.

Margaret Mead, a sexual abuse counselor at Prince George's General Hospital, said yesterday that she has seen victims as young as 2 week's old.

She said her caseload has tripled in the last year, and she is convinced that "children don't lie."

The one-hour programs will be presented by members of the police department's Safety Education Division and the Sexual Assault Center of Prince George's General Hospital.

The first program will be held at 7:30 tonight at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt.