Eight-year-old Mary Crowe no longer has to stay by herself at home after school, but her mother had to take a pay cut to afford day care for the child.

Mary's latchkey situation, detailed in a Washington Post story last fall, highlighted the day-care problems of moderate-income families who make too much money to receive government subsidies for care but who cannot afford the increasingly hefty cost of care.

Mary's mother, Fay Crowe, a divorced parent of three small children, found that when she got a salary increase she no longer qualified for child-care subsidies because her annual gross income had gone above the $24,744 ceiling.

With subsidies, the cost of care for all three of her children came to $360 a year. With no subsidies, her child-care bill jumped to $7,124 a year for the two younger boys alone, and she could not squeeze out the other $40 to $50 a week for after-school care for Mary. At 7, Mary was staying by herself at home after school.

The situation brought shocked reactions from child-care experts, who said that a child that age should not be alone but who acknowledged that they are hearing about younger and younger latchkey children because affordable day-care in this area can be hard to find.

Crowe eventually decided to take a pay cut at her job as a data base analyst so she again would qualify for assistance, and Mary returned to after-school care in April.

Crowe hopes that the dilemma will be over this fall, when two of the children will be in school full time and the youngest will be in kindergarten, so none will need full-time day care. At that point, she is hoping to be able to accept a salary increase and end her reliance on subsidies, because she could afford to pay for part-time care for all three.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," said Crowe, who did not relish taking a pay cut. "It's surprising the things you end up doing to survive."