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Kansas childcare director Kim Vanderhofe talks digital age, COVID (Includes interview)

Russian novelist, philosopher, essayist, and journalist Fyodor Dostoevsky once said: “The soul is healed by being with children.” An individual who embodies this wise quotation is educator and childcare director Kim Vanderhofe of Mound Valley, Kansas.

On being the director of the Butterfly Funhouse Childcare in Mound Valley, she said, “First and foremost, I love providing a service in the small community I live in. Secondly, I love being surrounded by children all day. Children are honest, funny, inquisitive, loving, caring, and let’s not forget sometimes they can be very adventurous. Every day is a new adventure but with routine, structure, patience, understanding, and a whole lot of love we manage wonderfully.”

“When children know what to expect and what is expected of them they feel safe, secure, and loved. My mom also helps me with my Licensed Group Child Care home so the children get the best of both worlds. Everyone loves ‘Grandma Linda’,” she said.

Vanderhofe will be celebrating 34 years in this field in March. “On April 14, 2018, I became a participant in the ‘Links 2 Quality’ two-year pilot program. This program was started to develop Kansas’ childcare quality recognition and improvement systems,” she said.

“This program aims to support early care and education professionals in recognizing and building on the strengths of their program to provide higher quality care. I was awarded a Founder’s Link for participating. Links to Quality works with programs to build upon their strengths ‘linking’ together with the following competencies that create the L2Q Standard of Quality,” she elaborated.

She continued, “To support their journey, L2Q provides community consultants who coach, consult, and connect programs with resources and other programs through local Learning Communities. Following the two-year pilot test of the program, which ended in April of 2020, Links to Quality has transitioned into planning for the years ahead. Phase 2 so to speak which I am still a part of. ”

“This process will take lessons learned during the Pilot and translate them into a Links to Quality system that will achieve our vision of a Kansas where all children have access to high-quality early care and education,” she added.

On being a childcare director in the digital age, Vanderhofe exclaimed, “It is amazing.” “Having the world wide web at your fingertips has been a game-changer for sure. When I first started providing the care I had to go to libraries and check out books and do research on things. I still have books I read to them every day but when they ask questions it is so nice to go straight to the source,” she said.

Regarding her use of technology in her daily routine as a childhood educator, she responded, “If a child asks me, ‘What does a beaver eat besides trees?’ I can instantly search for it on my laptop or phone and not only tell them but show them. I can go a step further and print out pictures for them to pass around, and even a coloring book page for them to color. I can also pull up a video to watch beavers building a dam.”

“I play follow-along songs, watch yoga, and exercise videos on my laptop for the kids, and once in a blue moon an educational video. I have no television or video games at my childcare, we have too many other fun things to do. Also, since we have remote learning once every two weeks right now the school-age children that attend my childcare do their school work on their laptops,” she said.

She opened up about how COVID has affected the childcare business in Mound Valley, Kansas. “It has been a challenge, to say the least,” she said. “Our new normal During Covid-19 Implementing new safety policies can be overwhelming for Child Care Providers, with numerous policies already in place.”

“Recently, due to Covid-19, we have been on pins and needles wondering what to do,” she said. “Since March 13, we’ve been wondering, are we doing enough, maybe too much? What will my families do? Will they work? Will they stay home with their children? Will they work from home? With so many questions and changes, I know some of you have been shaking your head and thinking, ‘Oh no, I have to write another policy to add to my ever-growing Handbook that is already overflowing with ‘Policies and Procedures’.”

“Here are the steps I’ve personally followed,” she said. “The first thing I did was take a deep breath and prayed to God to guide me. Then, I called my Licensing Surveyor. She directed me to multiple resources. This meant reading everything I could get my hands on. Of course, some of it has changed and we are getting mixed signals and this can create fear. I have read the CDC guidelines plus things my amazing Licensing Surveyor has emailed to me. My Community Consultant sent several resources to me to share with my families. I have watched webinars, sometimes listening to the same things over and over.”

“Still, I was feeling overwhelmed, she admitted. “I already clean and sanitize all day long and feel I provide a clean healthy environment, but will it be enough? I knew I needed to limit toys, but which ones? No diaper bags being brought in was doable but stressful for parents. (What if I run out of something?) I reassured them we will be okay and get through this.”

She continued, “Ultimately, after much research, I typed my Covid-19 policy and went over my new policy with all my families and explained to them we are all in this together. They agreed to take their children’s temperatures at home every morning before bringing them. We also check temperatures when kids arrive at my Child Care.”

“The children remove their shoes and we spray them with Lysol. They go straight to the bathroom to wash their hands, which is nothing new. We clean, sanitize, sterilize, and wash, wash our hands. I have this hand sanitizer station by my front door and my parents use it before entering,” she said.

“Although this has been a stressful time for many, following these procedures is allowing everyone to stay safe and healthy. For that, we are all grateful,” she added.

On the future of childcare in the next five years, she said, “I see childcare hopefully growing and going in the right direction. Covid has caused a lot of childcare centers to close all over the country. Families have to work and they can’t work if they don’t have a childcare center to take their children to. Quality child care will be even harder to find for families if they continue closing down.”

For young and aspiring that want to go into childcare, she said, “Be prepared. It is a hard job but a very rewarding job. You have to truly actually love children, and people. Read everything you can. Watch webinars, attend trainings, get your Associate’s degree in Early Childhood to see if this is truly your calling. You have to be very passionate, genuine and love what you do and you will never work a day in your life,” she said.

Vanderhofe defined the word success as follows: “Success means having a purpose, being self-determined, also passionate, honest, and confident about what you say and do.”

“A favorite Bible verse comes to mind, Genesis 39:3. ‘When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did.’ And I know God has always taken care of me and he is with me always,” she concluded.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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