Not even a decade of working in the infant room at Nokomis Child Care Centers has tired out head teacher Leslie Rice. From tending to basic baby needs like bottle feeding, diaper changes and making sure everybody gets their naps, Rice also greets children and their guardians every morning.
It’s an exhausting day in anybody’s eyes, but not for Rice, who says she likes wearing several hats at once.
“Every morning, I greet the children and parents and let them know how glad I am they are part of the Nokomis family,” Rice says. “Some days
I get to be the problem solver and help parents with questions they have about their children.”
Along with the ability to consult with families about child care, Rice educates caregivers and children about ways they can encourage child
development. But her favorite role of all is that of supporter.
“This is when a child needs me to be there for him to be comforted, hugged, encouraged, praised, and loved,” she says.
Many times, Nokomis staff helps foster profound changes in families’ lives, as in one case when Leslie helped prepare a teen mother to care for her child.
“This young mom had no idea how to take care of her baby,” Leslie says. “The baby was placed in foster care. Every morning, the foster parents would drop the child off at Nokomis, and shortly after, the mom would show up for training.”
Several sessions later, the child was able to have short unsupervised visits, and eventually, mom and son were reunited for good.
Nokomis staff is very cognizant of individual child needs. One baby, a four-month-old boy was always coming down with colds. He also had severe eczema. “It turned out the little guy was allergic to eggs and nuts,” Leslie says. “His allergy was so bad that even if his parents ate eggs or nuts, his skin would break out and he would get sick.”
To accommodate the boy’s dietary needs, Leslie and Nokomis cooks made sure to check every last ingredient in recipes and labels to assure the youngster had a peanut-and-egg-free meal.
“There are several stories like this,” Leslie says. “The families Nokomis helps are often living paycheck to paycheck trying to make ends meet. Nokomis scholarships help out these families, and this is one of the many reasons I’m proud to say ‘I work at Nokomis.’ ”