- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2000

Ten-year-old Sydney and Stephanie, play together one Thursday morning while their parents work several blocks away.
The two paint thespian masks, gluing yarn for hair. Next, they smother colored shaving cream all over their hands, drawing hearts and shapes on a light table as if it were a foggy window.
Later, they quietly make confetti-and bead-laden soaps in different shapes with the help of Kerri Turner, their teacher.
They are two of the 24 children attending Lipton Corporate Childcare, a business that helps fill the growing need of emergency day care when regular caretakers cannot work.
"We're like the AAA of child-care," said Diane Lipton-Dennis, founder of D.C.-based Lipton Corporate Childcare Centers Inc.
Lipton admits a child for that day if the parent's employer is a client. Each company pays $20,000 annually for every 500 employees, and parents are charged a $35 usage fee per child per day. Parents can use any of Lipton's six centers on the East Coast.
The company has 59 clients including Andersen Consulting LLP, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Ms. Lipton-Dennis opened the first center on 15th Street NW in 1991 after she found no solution to her own problem of temporary child care. She plans to expand that center and open two more by the end of the year one in Reston and one in Morris County, N.J.
Lipton targets areas with high concentrations of companies, like the District, Philadelphia and New York.
"When my family moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., without any support system and the caregiver went home to Guatemala, I went to look for care," she said. "There really was nothing out there other than enrolling children in full-service day care."
No other companies in the area specialize in emergency child care. So employers are searching for emergency day care from on-site care to contracts with traditional day care centers.
U.S. businesses began giving employees child-care benefits during the 1970s as more women began working, according to a report from the National Child Care Information Center.
The companies' managers said providing child-care or assistance resulted in lower employee turnover, lower absenteeism, lifted morale and improved productivity.
About 40 percent of U.S. families had children under the age of 14, according to a 1997 report from the Department of Labor on innovative child care. In more than half of those families, children needed care.
Working parents make special day care arrangements about once every three months because their usual child-care is not available, according to the Census Bureau.
Today, 12 percent of employees with children under the age of 6 said they have access to a child-care center operated or sponsored by their employers at or near work, according to the Census Bureau.
Gerry Mathews is one of those parents. She is an accounting executive at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, a D.C. law firm that has subscribed to Lipton for about eight years.
Mrs. Mathews pays an undisclosed percentage of the fee, which comes out of her piece of the company's budget each time either of her daughters visits a Lipton center.
The world's largest law firm, New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, has used the Lipton Centers for about five years.
It picks up the tab for 10 visits before the employee has to pay the usage fee.
Becky Marcey, the human resources supervisor at the D.C. office, said she uses the service for her children and considers it a required benefit like health care. "It's easy enough to do, and it's a wonderful benefit," she said.
There really is no alternative, explains Dewie Oppenheimer, the company's operations manager. "Their option is to stay home or come here."
Family members, Ms. Marcey agreed, are usually the alternative.
Bethesda-based Marriott Corp. has company-sponsored child care. Two of the company's hotels began working with other hotels in 1997 to maintain a 24-hour nonprofit child care center in Atlanta for the companies' employees.
For the past 10 years, Marriott employees in Bethesda have enjoyed an on-site, company-sponsored child-care center. The company is planning another center in the District.
Washington law firm Arnold & Porter opened a full-time, on-site child-care center with a maximum capacity of 55. The center also has backup care for evenings and weekends.
The Bureau of National Affairs in Washington has contracted for the past five years with Capital Kids, a day care center in Washington that holds places for BNA employees as a near-site emergency child-care center. BNA charges its employees $20 per child per day for the service. Margaret Coles, work life coordinator for BNA, said offering child care is a necessity.
"It's definitely one of the criteria for companies to be considered to be one of the best companies to work for," she said, referring to Fortune magazine's "Top 100 companies to work for."
Ms. Coles is looking to start emergency child-care near the company's Rockville office. She said she will likely contract with a traditional day care center.
"We are a publisher and we have employees that have to meet deadlines," she said. "So it's important that we try to get them here."
The Lipton centers usually admit 11 to 37 healthy children 3 months to 12 years old. And the ratios, Ms. Oppenheimer said, make the centers an attractive bargain.
There is one caretaker for every three infants, one for every four toddlers, one for every six preschoolers and one for eight school-age children.

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