Grimsey is proud to be a part of the Army Family. The wife of a military policeman and mother of four, Grimsey knows how important it is for Families to have a strong support system in place – one that allows Soldiers to accomplish the mission, secure in the knowledge that their children are safe, happy and receiving good care in their absence.
It was Grimsey’s desire to provide this support system for fellow military Family Members that led her to become a certified Family Child Care provider, and it is her passion for helping children learn and grow that inspired her to complete a voluntary national accreditation process.
Grimsey, who has been an FCC provider at Fort Drum for nearly three years, chose to open her own Family Child Care home after working to find solutions for her 6-year-old daughter, who had a difficult time learning when she began kindergarten.
“I started at the bottom, and we tried a lot of different things until we figured out what works for her,” Grimsey said. “Seeing that made me realize that there is a way you can help every child. That is what motivates me – finding out the best way to help each child learn.”
This idea – that each child learns in his or her own unique way – is the driving force behind her teaching philosophy, Grimsey said.
“I speak with the parents every day, and we talk about the best way to help their child with their specific needs,” she said. “In my home we have the same six children here every day, and I can really focus on those specific needs.”
In addition to being able to devote a great deal of one-on-one time to each of the six children in her care, Grimsey said that working from home is what is best for her own Family.
“My husband is a first sergeant, and he is gone a lot,” she said. “I wanted a job that was fulfilling that I could do from home. I also wanted to offer a loving and home-like environment – a nurturing atmosphere for kids.”
Having the full support of one’s Family is essential when making the decision to become an FCC provider, said Karin Sikirica, director of Fort Drum’s Child and Youth Services.
“These individuals are giving up their own space to provide a great learning atmosphere for the children in their care,” she said. “Their Families have to adjust to sharing their time as well. When it comes to FCC, the whole Family is involved, and having their support is vital.”
While she knew that her Family supported her completely, Grimsey said she could not have anticipated how strong the bond between her own children and those in her care would be. Everyone looks forward to meeting her children at the bus stop at the end of the day and spending afternoons as a “close-knit” extended Family, she said.
Deann Gandia, child development services administrator, said that the close relationships that develop between FCC pro-viders and the Families they serve is one reason that many people opt for this type of care.
“Families really grow close to their FCC provider,” she said. “They partner with them, and that bond is incredible.”
Gandia also pointed out that every child is different, and a larger day care center may not always be the best option for their specific needs.
“In child development centers, the children transition into different rooms and have different providers as they age,” she said. “Some children do better in a setting where they remain in the same space as they grow, and this is a huge advantage of FCC homes.”
Grimsey, who stayed at home with her children, said that she is proud to be able to offer the option of in-home care to other Families.
“I wanted to offer parents one care provider for many years,” she said. “I wanted to offer care where siblings weren’t separated by age into different classrooms. In home day care, siblings can spend the day together, and (they) are able to play, interact and learn together.”
In planning her lessons, Grimsey is conscious of providing real-life learning opportunities for the children in her care. During a thematic unit about ladybugs, she and the children spent time observing the insects in her yard.
When the weather turned cold and the children expressed disappointment with being unable to continue their weekly outdoor picnics, she made arrangements to take them to their community center, where they enjoy an indoor picnic and games in the play area each Friday.
Grimsey said she believes that ongoing professional development is the key to learning new methods and techniques of teaching that will benefit the children in her care.
It is the reason that she has completed two voluntary credentialing processes – both of which she learned about during her FCC training at Fort Drum.
“I completed my CDA (Child Development Associate) credentials, and I wanted to learn more, so I moved right on to the National Association for Family Child Care accreditation,” she said.
The National Association for Family Child Care sponsors the only nationally recognized accreditation system designed specifically for FCC providers.
Christine Barton, Family Child Care program director, said that Child and Youth Services staff members are encouraged to complete the CDA and NAFCC programs because of the quality of the material presented in each course. Individuals who earn these extra accreditations are reimbursed by the Army.
“It provides a broader scope of knowledge in the area of early childhood development,” she said. “It is a lot of work for the provider, but it really brings together the care-giving and educational aspects of child care.
“There is always new information about best practices for nurturing and teaching, and there are always new techniques and tools to learn,” Barton continued. “We serve a very diverse population of kids whose needs vary greatly, and this provides the extra education our providers need to best care for these children.”
NAFCC applicants must complete a rigorous self-study program and provide lesson plans that demonstrate their ability to incorporate the skills and knowledge they learn in the course into their teaching methods.
Each applicant creates a portfolio of lesson plans that show evidence of the use of the advanced early childhood education programming provided in the course, and – lastly – they receive a formal observation and assessment.
“The inspector was with us all day – watching me teach, watching the children as they played and ate and performed different learning tasks,” Grimsey said.
Grimsey was thrilled when she learned that she had received her accreditation.
“I like my parents to be able to go to see that I’m accredited,” she said. “It shows them that I like to push myself to become a better provider and that I am always looking for more opportunities to learn.”
Barton said that Grimsey’s professionalism and dedication is an inspiration to others.
“She is always going the extra mile when it comes to taking care of the children,” Barton said. “She also plays a huge role in helping our new FCC providers get started and is in contact with them frequently – networking and sharing her knowledge with them.”
Grimsey said that starting out as a new provider can be a little overwhelming at first. Once her own in-home care business was established, she made it a goal to mentor others.
Whether it is helping them learn how to fill out paperwork and write lessons, or sharing organizational strategies and tips on successfully helping children tackle developmental obstacles, she is committed to providing support for her fellow FCC providers.
Jamie Santos, an FCC provider who has served Families on Fort Drum for a year, said that Grimsey was instrumental to her success when she first opened her home.
“She is a very good friend and is really committed to helping all of us,” she said. “We do monthly meetings with her, and any time I have questions or need advice, I know that I can always count on her. She has a lot of experience and really knows how to help new providers.”
Grimsey said she plans to continue to seek out opportunities for professional development, and she looks forward to continuing to support other FCC providers on Fort Drum. She said that she hopes to see more individuals who are passionate about teaching and caring for children take advantage of the opportunity to become FCC providers.
“I’ve met providers from many different installations, and they all say that Fort Drum is on top of things. I’m fortunate that I started here because I feel that wherever I go next, I’ll be prepared because of the training I got here and the high standards I was held to,” she said.