The head of Fairfax County's Office for Children said yesterday that the agency had fielded few complaints about the day care providers on a list it compiles for parents and said she was unaware of any reports of incidents like the one in which a Springfield woman was charged in the death of an infant.
Director Judith Rosen receives five to eight complaints a month about family day care providers, some of whom are not on the county list.
She said the majority of the complaints are business-oriented, concerning such things as the fee a parent should pay for a provider's services. The next biggest category of complaints concerns whether a provider is caring for too many children and lack of supervision, Rosen said.
One of the providers on the list, Martha E. Guba, was arrested Friday and charged with neglect in the death of a 10-month-old girl for whom she was baby-sitting.
Guba was arrested on felony charges in the death of Ashley Snead, who died from an overdose of a drug used to treat depression and bed-wetting. Police said the infant ingested the drug while in Guba's care but did not say Guba administered it.
Like other counties and jurisdictions in the Washington area, Fairfax County provides parents with a list of people who provide day care services. In these cases, it is up to parents to select and interview the individual day care provider.
The Office of Children does not investigate complaints, but refers them to the state's protective services division or the licensing division.
Both Fairfax and state officials said yesterday they could not say how many complaints of child abuse or neglect have come from the Office of Children because day care is not a separate category.
"The alleged abuse of a child is not broken out as thoroughly as it ought to be," said DeAnn Lineberry, assistant communications director for the Virginia Department of Social Services.
Virginia does not require licensing of providers if they care for no more than five children. Arlington County has developed its own approval and licensing requirements, and Alexandria requires registration of all providers.
But the District requires that providers be licensed and have a home inspection, physical exam and written references. Maryland requires registration, involving a home inspection, physical exam, references and a criminal record check.
To be placed on the Fairfax list of family day care providers, individuals must be screened by the Protective Services Registry of Virginia's Department of Social Services, which maintains a listing of all founded cases of child abuse or neglect.
But Rosen said that screening is not the same as a criminal background check, which is not required by law for these day care providers.
The providers also must be screened by the Fairfax County Health Department, the county's fire department and provide two letters of references to the county, Rosen said.
The director said providers are taken off the county list if they voluntarily choose to be deleted or if a complaint about the provider is being investigated by the state.
When parents inquire about day care providers, the Office of Children mails them a package of material, which includes a letter stating that the list does not represent an endorsement from the county.
The number of day care providers on the Fairfax list has swelled to more than 800 since 1975, when the office and the list was established.
But in a region with the largest percentage in the nation of working mothers with small children, the demand for day care has been much higher. The Office for Children receives more than 1,000 requests a month for day care resources.
Judy Griesse, a family day care provider in Annandale who is on the county list, said parents should not assume that the county list offers greater protection against abuse.
Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason) believes it is time for greater county involvement in regulating and licensing child care. " "We have to balance regulations with not being overregulatory and driving people out of the business."