Yolanda Bailey, 17, wants badly to get her degree from T.C. Williams High School, where she was a B and C student until her junior year.

That was when she had her baby, DiJhon, and discovered that she could not find child care she could afford so that she could return to classes.

"I don't want to drop out," Bailey said in an interview at her home in Alexandria, where she was caring for her 6-month-old son.

While a lot of her friends had babies and dropped out of school, she said, she believes that "they don't know what they are missing yet. Maybe five years down the road they will realize."

Bailey is one of more than 100 high school girls in Alexandria who had babies in the last school year, according to city officials.

And while the officials are searching for ways to reduce teen pregnancies, they also are trying to encourage those who have had babies to go back to school. Child care is one necessary ingredient.

Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. said in an interview that he may have found a nonprofit group to pay for day care for Bailey's child, but he voiced frustration at the number of teen-agers who face similar problems.

"While {we hope} we can take care of this {Bailey's} situation, the point is, this is not that uncommon," Moran said. If the teen-age mothers do not go back to school, their ability to be self-sufficient is limited and they may be relegated to a life of poverty, he said.

Suggestions have been made to provide child care at T.C. Williams for returning teen-age mothers, Moran said.

But the mayor expressed reservations about that approach, saying that while it might help some to return, it could send the wrong signal to girls who have not had babies.

Citing peer pressure and an environment where it sometimes is the "in" thing to do to have a child, Moran said that this is "one reason I am reticent about providing day care at the high school."

Some teen-agers "will feel that it is perfectly acceptable to have a baby," he said. "I'm not sure we should make it that easy."

In 1985, there were 365 reported pregnancies among Alexandria teen-agers, or about 13 percent of the female teen-age population, according to city figures.

Of those girls of junior high school and high school age who became pregnant, 170 gave birth to babies that year.

A city task force headed by Moran has recommended establishing a health clinic in or near T.C. Williams that would, among other things, provide students with information about contraception and give them vouchers and prescriptions for birth control devices.

Proponents of the controversial idea have said it would help reduce teen pregnancies, while opponents have argued that it would encourage teen sex and lead to even more pregnancies and abortions.

Bailey says that she does not regret her decision to have a child but that she is frustrated by not being able to get back to high school.

After graduation, she wanted to go to Northern Virginia Community College to continue her education in a mathematics-oriented field, such as accounting or computers.

Bailey, who would have two more years of high school, now goes to night school at T.C. Williams and takes courses preparing her to take a test that would earn her a general equivalency diploma.

She said the classes so far have gone over things she already has learned, however, and are not the same as finishing high school courses.

"I want to graduate with my class and go to the prom. But my baby comes first," she said. "I miss school. I go up there every chance I get. The difference is, when the bell rings I can {only} imagine going off to class."

Asked why she decided to have a baby, Bailey answered: "Jealousy. Everybody had a baby."

She added that the father of her child encouraged her to have a baby, for the same reason: "Everybody else had a baby. He really wanted one."

He still attends T.C. Williams High School and is to graduate at the end of the school year, she said.

Bailey is unmarried but said she still has a relationship with the father and that he gives her emotional support in raising the child.

She said that she has a large family in this area but that they all work and none of them is available to help take care of DiJhon during the day.

Bailey apparently would have had no problem getting money for child care under a city program before a recent change in public assistance rules, according to officials.

Under federal legislation passed in 1984 but not implemented in Virginia until April 1 of this year, Bailey cannot get Aid to Dependent Children because her mother's income makes her ineligible.

Under previous rules, only the teen-age mother's own income would be considered in determining eligibility, but now when a mother is under 18 her parents' income is taken into account as well.

Bailey's mother works in a program that helps former offenders find housing and jobs and has an income high enough to disqualify Bailey for ADC assistance.

This in turn makes Bailey ineligible for child care provided by Alexandria to ADC recipients.

Bailey said that when she worked during the summer at J.C. Penney as a cashier making $4.05 an hour, her grandmother cared for the child, but she is working elsewhere now.

Bailey said she does not want the public assistance funds but needs the baby-sitting help.

"I didn't want the ADC, because it's better if you help yourself. I just want a sitter."