A FEATURE ABOUT FAMILY, INFANT AND CHILD CARE CENTER IN THE JULY 15 EDITION OF THE MONTGOMERY WEEKLY SHOULD HAVE SAID THAT MAGGIE WHITAKER, A CHILD WHO ATTENDS THE CENTER, WAS BORN WITH A MEMBRANE MISSING FROM HER BRAIN. WHILE SHE CANNOT WALK OR TALK, SHE CAN CRAWL, STAND AND USE A SIGN LANGUAGE VOCABULARY OF 15 TO 20 WORDS, ACCORDING TO HER MOTHER, SANDI BOGGS. AND MAGGIE NO LONGER TAKES HEART MEDICATION. THE CENTER'S UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION, WHICH ONCE WAS CALLED THE ASSOCIATION OF RETARDED CITIZENS, NO LONGER GOES BY THAT NAME BUT IS SIMPLY KNOWN AS THE ARC OF MONTGOMERY. ALSO, EMILY LAWANDA, ANOTHER CHILD WHO ATTENDS THE CENTER, WAS MISIDENTIFIED IN THE STORY.
One of the few things Tamaika Davis could count on happening nearly every day when her two daughters were at their former day-care center was a panicky telephone call from the teacher. One of the girls was having an asthma-related emergency, the teacher would say, and Davis needed to come right away.
Davis had to treat each call with urgency. She had no way of knowing whether the situation was indeed an emergency, because the teacher did not have a medical background. Davis would rush from her office in Kensington and drive the 15 minutes to the day-care center to assess the situation, adjust the girls' equipment or administer medicine.
"It was not a very pleasant situation," said Davis, 23, of Gaithersburg.
Now her daughters, McKayla Snead, 4, and Tiara Davis-White, 10 months, are enrolled in a day-care center where the teachers rarely call Davis. That is because all the child care providers at the Family, Infant and Child Care Center in Rockville have medical backgrounds and are trained to handle a variety of emergencies. The only children at the center are ones with medical problems.
Day-care decisions are taxing enough on parents of healthy children: How do they find a reasonably priced and reliable day-care center where children will receive enough attention and proper care? Add to those typical worries the need for special supervision, and the anxiety for parents of children with medical problems increases.
"Our families are really desperate because really there's nothing out there," said Tracy Haworth, program administrator at the Family, Infant and Child Care Center, one of just two state-funded centers in Maryland for young children with medical needs. "They are relieved to find us."
Aside from the medical expertise of its staff, however, this center looks no different from any other day-care center. Brightly colored toys fill the classrooms. Finger paintings adorn the walls, and mobiles hang from the ceiling. Tricycles and playground equipment pepper the back yard. In the infant room, photos of the babies form a collage on the front of a refrigerator, and in the toddler room, oversize books cover a pint-size table.
"We try to keep the center running as typically as other centers. We do the same things, but it just takes longer," said Sharon Cyr, who designs the center's educational programs.
The center is housed in a former elementary school tucked into a quiet, tree-filled neighborhood on West Edmonston Drive in Rockville. It's part of the larger Children's Resource Center, which provides a series of programs for Montgomery County children and is run through the county's Association for Retarded Children.
To be enrolled in the center, children must be Maryland residents between 6 weeks and 5 years of age and must have a condition that requires medical supervision. The 34 children currently enrolled have such medical problems as respiratory, neurological or heart conditions.
Some children require special diets or feedings through tubes. An infant who recently had retinal transplants requires ointment in her eyes daily.
The center's teachers, who have medical and social work backgrounds, incorporate the children's treatments into the day's routine. If a group of toddlers are playing outside when one child needs to take medicine, a teacher will bring the medicine to the child. Occupational, physical or speech therapy sessions are conducted in the classrooms. As long as the treatment does not require a sterile environment, it becomes a regular part of the day.
"That's by design," Haworth said. "If you take a child away from playing, the child gets upset, and that upsets the flow of the classroom."
That pleases Sandi Boggs, whose 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Maggie Whitaker, was born with a brain that wasn't completely developed and with two holes in her heart. Maggie had seizures as a newborn and cannot yet walk or talk. She also requires medicine to regulate her heart pace.
"On the freak chance that she'll have another seizure, I know she's in good hands," said Boggs, of Gaithersburg. "We're just lucky we live in Montgomery County."
In addition to the Rockville center, the state of Maryland funds just one other day-care center, in Baltimore, for children with medical needs. Some parents of children at the Rockville center said they are surprised that there are only two such programs in the state, because the need for more is there.
"Now that I have to drive to Fairfax [to work], it would be tempting to move," said Amy Lewanda, a pediatric geneticist whose daughter, Jourdan, attends the center. "But I will never leave this county because of the services that FICC provides."
Without these centers, parents of day care-aged children who require medical supervision have few options. They can hire a nurse or aide to look after their child, but that can be costly. Many times a parent will quit his or her job to stay home and care for the child or rely on someone without a medical background for child care.
"My biggest worry was finding day care that could accommodate her," Boggs said. " 'Who's going to take a kid like this?' I thought. I don't know what I would have done without them."
The cost is comparable to regular day-care centers, Haworth said. Families are charged on a sliding scale according to income, and the center is Medicare-funded.
The center has space for as many as 36 children, depending on the medical needs of the children; Haworth said that 25 are on the waiting list.
CAPTION: Daphne Berry takes care of, from left, Tiara Davis-White, Samantha Morales and Dante Smith at the Family, Infant and Child Care Center in Rockville. The staff makes medical treatments part of the children's daily routine.
CAPTION: Top, Dante Smith, 1, is tickled by a staff member. Top left, Patty Hernandez, 2, washes up after painting at the Family, Infant and Child Care Center in Rockville. Above, Tracy Haworth talks to Emily Lewanda, 1. Left, Gonzalo Moreno, right, laughs when his name is sung during a group song. Conor Yates-Gregory watches.