The death of Melissa Solesby represents the worst fear of every parent who entrusts a child to a day-care provider.

The article reporting Melissa's death {"Unlicensed Sitter Charged in Md. Death: Child Allegedly Drowned in Germantown Home," Metro, Oct. 28} implied that this tragedy could have been avoided if Melissa's day-care provider had been licensed. My experience with licensed day-care providers compels me to refute this premise.

In 1984 I sought day care for my one-year-old son. I obtained a list of day-care providers licensed by Montgomery County. The list included the expected reminder to parents to make their own determinations about the fitness of a particular day-care provider.

When I telephoned one day-care provider, I was informed by her daughter that her mother had "lost her mind" and no longer cared for children.

I interviewed day-care providers in homes that were filthy. One day-care provider intended to use a crib that was broken and obviously dangerous. Another home had an open stairway with no protection for children from a two-story fall. The problems went on and on. And all of these day-care providers were licensed.

I contacted Montgomery County to describe the conditions I had seen in licensed homes. The social worker with whom I spoke was sympathetic but explained that limited resources prevented them from following up once homes were licensed.

I concluded that licensing is only a fee-generating device. Licensing is no assurance of even a minimal standard of safety and competence.

I fortunately found a capable and loving day-care provider for my son. But I did not bother asking her if she was licensed.

ELLEN ANN CALLAHAN Gaithersburg