FOR DECADES, the children of Greater Washington have found love and expert care at the city's first-class, internationally acclaimed medical center. The heartwarming history of Children's Hospital -- where children without resources are not turned away -- has centered on Robert H. Parrott, a dedicated pediatrician. Under Dr. Parrott, who died Sunday at 76, Children's grew from a modest local pediatric facility into a comprehensive research and health care complex.

His ability to raise money as well as standards of child care did not flag during the three decades in which he oversaw hospital operations while continuing to visit children in the wards. The hospital never received direct government operating funds and today still depends on private contributions.

Dr. Parrott served his residency at the old Children's at 13th and V streets NW. He returned in 1956 as its first full-time staff physician. Until then, patients generally had been treated by their private doctors. Dr. Parrott and others spent more than 10 years planning the next stage. In 1977, with a matching construction grant approved by Congress, Children's moved to a modern, fully equipped facility on Michigan Avenue NW. There hundreds of full-time physicians and researchers care for kids and study pediatric diseases.

Child abuse, sex abuse and pediatric AIDS were among the many newer fields to come under study, as well as Dr. Parrott's longtime specialty, viruses that cause respiratory diseases in children. After retiring in 1985 as senior vice president of academic affairs, he continued to write articles for scientific journals and textbooks.

Raising money for Children's remains a challenge. Countless readers of this newspaper have responded generously to the campaigns originally conducted in this newspaper by columnist Bill Gold and then by Bob Levey. That financial needs keep mounting is no sign of a failing institution; it is the mark of a vital community asset brought to maturity by a caring man of medicine.