Local child care provider Grace Alams was honored at a luncheon Oct. 10 at "The First Child Care Providers Awards Ceremony," held in Washington, D.C.
Alams and 17 others were recognized for their commitment to providing quality child care. Their work has been featured on the award-winning PBS television series "A Place of Our Own."
Alams, the owner of Grace's Kiddie Korner, has been a child care provider in Seattle for 12 years. At the suggestion of a friend who had her own child care business, she decided to open her own after a divorce left her as a single mother of four children.
Alams, who is originally from eastern Nigeria, didn't realize she was being honored until she arrived at the awards luncheon. Alams was profiled on the PBS program as part of "Child Care Provider of the Week" which aired in March.
"To be honored just blew me away," Alams said. "To be there with rest of the child care providers, we talked, exchange ideas, it was almost like a mini-training course, it was so very rewarding and I learned so much."
"To see that there are a whole bunch of people who care about kids like I do was wonderful," she said. "There are a lot of things we can do with kids that constitute science that we don't look at it as science unless we buy the little lab. But to hear how someone can implement little ideas into their programs was wonderful."
The ceremony highlighted the vital role that parents and child care providers can play in raising preschool-age children and preparing them for kindergarten. National statistics reveal that two out of every three children up to age four are either in the care of a parent or informal child care provider -- many of which are eager for more information and training. When surveyed, 80 percent of child care providers who watch the show reported enhanced child development skills.
Alams recalls one piece of advice that has always stuck with her, "Always look at everybody as just as important" and tries to carry that message though to her kids as well.
"I've worked with a lot of homeless families, battered women who have been displaced, but no matter where you're from, you are treated with the utmost respect," Alams said. "Nobody knows who has a house and who doesn't," Alams said. "I try to teach the kids the importance of being a good person; it's not about the designer clothes. Everybody is important and I try to teach the kids that everyone should be respected even if they look or wear different clothes or talk with an accent."
Alams credits Child Care Resources with helping to assist parents to find a quality day care center for their children. She said workers will drive parents around if they don't have a car or if they have just moved to town and assist child care providers with up-to-date training.
Alams tries to support single mothers and currently has 12 kids enrolled in her day care plus a waiting list of hopefuls trying to get enrolled.
"I've been in their shoes before, being a single mom, so it's not just being there for the kids, but being there for the mom and the family," Alams said.
Alams feeds the kids, and says she is big on taking them on field trips such as the Museum of Flight, community festivals and overnight camping trips.
"The kids still talk about that camping trip in West Seattle," Alams said. "It was a huge hit with them."
Alams follows a structured program, but she may change her topic to address issues that come up during the week.
The series, "A Place of Our Own," and its Spanish language companion "Los Ninos en Su Casa," are talk show designed for parents, grandparents, babysitters and anyone who takes care of young children. The series offers advice and tips on topics such as behavior, building language and literary skills, special needs and nutrition. The programs target preschool learning by addressing age-appropriate literacy, math, science and diversity recognition.
Both programs have been recognized with several national and local awards, a Peabody Award in 2006, Parent's Choice, an Emmy and was also nominated for an Imagen Award.
To view a video profile of Alams or for local listings, times and more information on "A Place of Our Own," visit www.aplaceofourown.org.