Virginia legislators thought they were giving church-operated day-care centers in Arlington County a nice little gift -- but most of the centers themselves don't want it.

Arlington for many years has had tougher child-care regulations than the state government and has required county licensing of a number of child-care facilities exempted from state regulation, including church-operated day-care centers and preschools.

Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly -- pushed by legislators from parts of the state where regulation is not highly regarded -- passed legislation saying that Arlington could not require licensing of child-care facilities operated by religious institutions.

None has yet sought an exemption, though the county is just now sending out information to day-care centers that might be affected, said Arlington Child Care Coordinator Elizabeth J. Hazel.

Of eight centers listed by Arlington County as church-related, directors at six said they will not seek exemptions, and one said she did not know. Only one -- at Arlington United Methodist Church Children's Weekday Program, which has been licensed by the county for 25 years -- said the facility "probably would" apply for the waiver.

Several directors contacted said they not only have no intention of seeking an exemption, but that they welcome the county licensing program.

"It {an exemption} is absolutely the last thing I would consider," said Frances Morris, director of the Trinity Episcopal Children's Center on Columbia Pike, saying she had been involved in the development of county regulations decades ago.

"We've been licensed for 22 years, and we will continue to {be} so," said Caron Clark, director of the First Baptist Church of Clarendon Child Development Center. "I quite frankly can't understand why church-sponsored centers wouldn't want to set a good example."

Wanda Crisp, director of Greenbrier Baptist Church Child Enrichment Center on South Seventh Street, said the county licensing has been "more of a help than a hindrance . . . . It helps to keep us in check" on health and safety questions.

In addition to the eight listed as church-related, the county is sending materials to other centers that appear to have religious affiliations. However, some of these are located on church property and are operated by non-religious organizations that would not qualify for the exemption.