Howard County Executive Elizabeth Bobo named a group of 18 parents, educators, business and social service professionals this week to find ways of increasing the availability and quality of child care in an area where most mothers work outside the home.

Bobo charged the child care task force with several missions, such as developing opportunities for government and business to work together and guiding a state-mandated survey on before- and after-school day care needs. She also asked the group to advise her on how the county can best help government employes.

The task force will be chaired by Joyce Demmitt, mother of a 9-month-old girl and director of information services at the Howard County public library, and is scheduled to meet for the first time Jan. 4. Its members have been asked to make recommendations in March, so Bobo can consider them while preparing a budget for next year.

Because of the tight time constraints under which the task force will be working, members said they would bring specific agendas to their first meetings. Demmitt said she is concerned that restrictive covenants have made it difficult for people to take care of children in their homes, the type of day care that experts say is most needed.

Jackie Clark, a task force member and director of the private firm Babysitting Referrals, said she wants to educate businesses and accountants about provisions in the federal tax code that allow employes to take child care as a health benefit or deduct child care expenses from their paychecks. The county could also promote child care "as a lucrative and rewarding business," she said.

In appointing a task force for child care issues, Bobo picked up an issue that had been a central part of her campaign platform, despite what she said were warnings from advisers that it would be unwise politically for Maryland's first female county executive to look too concerned about "women's issues."

She had planned a day care center for county employes, but has backed away from it, saying she is not convinced that is the best way to serve the workers.

Prince George's County opened a day care center for county employes five years ago; Montgomery County built child care facilities that have been rented to private businesses. Montgomery County also has mandated that new public buildings contain child care facilities.

Joining Demmitt and Clark on the task force will be: Pat Kelly, from the office of pupil services in the public schools; Robert Levine, supervisor of child care needs at Howard Community College; Dale Jackson, in charge of the Columbia Association's before- and after-school programs; Dana Cook, PTA president at Longfellow Elementary School; Linda Burton, a child care consultant; Paul Puma, from The Rouse Co.; Pam Johnson, a member of the Commission for Women; and Steve Gershman, a tax accountant.

Other members include: John Ibister, a member of Howard County United Way; Diane Edwards, past president of the Howard County Family Day Care Providers Association; Nancy Weber, a health department nurse; Social Services Director Samuel Marshall; Lisa Goshen, president of the Association of Community Services; Chamber of Commerce representative Chris Pettingill; Wendall Rakosky, from the personnel division of W.R. Grace Laboratory; and Ken Weinberg, director of the Howard County Youth Resource Center.