Mothers of Baltimore: Local women try to overcome lack of child care


BALTIMORE – Many child care centers in Baltimore tend to cater to single mothers, requiring the center operators, often based in the neighborhood, to provide ample doses of empathy and flexibility to support young families.

“You have the single parent [and the] other parent is either locked up or incarcerated,” said Yvonne Turner, who owns Old Mother Hubbard’s Child Care Center. “They’re trying to make ends meet.”

Turner started her own child care center with the hope of providing one-on-one time with children. “I think it’s so important that a child knows that you are loved somewhere,” said Turner, who home-schooled her own children for most of their childhood.

Interviews with several neighborhood-based child care centers in Baltimore reveal operators who emphasize their role in caring for the entire community and supporting young parents.

“I just be trying to help all of them that I run across and talk to them,” said LaKesha Solomon, owner of Solomon’s Family Daycare near Ellwood Park. “They always say ‘we’re coming to the daycare lady’, so I know a lot of them,” Solomon said. “I love my area.”

Solomon has been in the neighborhood for 25 years, but she credits the network in the neighborhood for supporting both parents and providers. For example, if someone is unable to afford daycare or access government-provided childcare vouchers, people will step up to cover the cost, according to Solomon.

“If they see somebody without [vouchers], they say, ‘Take ’em up there to Ms. Kesha; fill out her paperwork and we’ll talk to her,’” Solomon said. These vouchers are provided by the Child Care Scholarship Program, which offers vouchers redeemable at participating child care centers to families who meet program requirements, like being below a minimum income threshold.

According to Census data, there were 35,285 women-owned day care centers in the United States in 2021. In 2020, there were 793 registered child care providers in Baltimore City. In 2024, there are now only 669, a 15.6% loss since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Maryland State Department of Education data. In Baltimore, there are a variety of child care centers run out of family homes by women, such as Latoya Turpin, who runs the newly established Little Steps Childcare out of her house in Southwest Baltimore.

Turpin said she had worked in other daycare centers, but now as an owner she sought to create something different. Turpin said the focus of other daycare centers she worked at “wasn’t about the children, honestly. I feel like they cared more about the money than the quality of child care that the children were getting.”

BALTIMORE – Children play at the Little Steps Childcare in Southwest Baltimore. (Miles Grovic/Capital News Service)

Turpin’s child care prioritizes curriculum and development, while also keeping the parents in the loop through an app called Brightwheel. The app allows parents to learn what their child is doing at any time during the day via posts and updates from Turpin, such as the time of a nap or what they have eaten.

Turpin’s sense of community appealed to Jillian Kumar, a single mother raising a 1-year-old girl, Wynter. Kumar called Turpin, who immediately answered the phone, answered her questions, and set up a time to look at the daycare. Finding Little Steps Childcare was a gift, she said.

“It was all very easy, which as a new mom, single mom in over her head it was very nice that I didn’t have to, you know, jump through a bunch of hoops,” Kumar said.

Kumar’s struggles as a single mother in Baltimore are not uncommon. The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute shows 51% of female-headed households in Baltimore have children under the age of 18. Some of the challenges for Kumar and other new parents involve delays in accessing child care vouchers, which in turn delayed her ability to return to work. And this added stress on her family, who had to babysit her daughter.

There are also complications from urban life in general. Kumar said her car was stolen twice after she had given birth and that her car seat and stroller were also stolen. Her neighbors, however, came to assist her.

“The community really came around for me in that time of need,” Kumar said. “I was able to get a car seat and stroller for free that was in amazing condition, and was actually the one that I had wanted when I first got pregnant but was unable to afford.”

Not all young parents have such support. Turner sees the stress single parents face, and some of these parents search for an outlet, which she said can be drugs. These parents are “trying to duck reality and, and cope. That’s their coping mechanism,” Turner said. Some parents turn to smoking so much marijuana “that their children come in smelling like marijuana,” Turner said.

Other parents said these neighborhood-run and owned daycare centers help ease worries about the safety of their children.

“There’s a lot of people out here who don’t really care for the kids. They just care about the money,” said Kieshe Gasque, a client of Turpin’s Little Steps Childcare. Gasque said other child care centers are “not taking care of them the proper way” such as failing to change diapers. Having her children in the care of a quality person such as Turpin is an enormous relief, Gasque said.

“So it’s the simple fact of knowing that your child is in good hands,” Gasque said. “And you can go on with your workday or your life without thinking, ‘Oh my god, is this person harming my child?’”

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