For parents, those opportunities are fleeting and bittersweet, as one day those moments will be gone.
But that’s not the case for the child care aides at the Monument Health Children’s Center. Here, each day is a new opportunity to rock a baby, watch a toddler take those first, uneasy steps and play hide-and-seek with spunky kids.
Samantha Chilstrom is a Child Care Aide at the Children’s Center. She works in the Tigger Room, surrounded by Pooh, Piglet and Roo, too. The youngest children of Monument Health’s physicians and caregivers spend their days in the infant to 3-year-old building under the loving and watchful eyes of child care aides.
As a growing employer in a growing community, Monument Health saw a need for more child care options. The Children’s Center was opened in 1981 as an affordable option to provide preschool and day care services to those working for Monument Health. Three buildings provide space for children of different ages, and both the day care and preschool are fully licensed.
“Our physicians and caregivers often make life and death decisions in their professional roles,” said Trina Allen, Vice President of Human Resources. “Having a safe, loving place for their children allows them to focus on delivering high-quality patient care — knowing we are providing love and care to their children.”
Samantha has been watching kids grow at the Children’s Center for seven years — and she loves what she does.
“Simply put, my role is to provide nurturing care to young children and services that support the needs of working parents,” said Samantha. “Each day I come to work with the goal of giving the best care I can to help these little minds grow into bright and caring young boys and girls.”
As a mom of three boys, Samantha said one of the unexpected perks for her is girl time.
“I always say, ‘my girls,’ and ‘my girl time is at work,’” said Samantha as she received an extra hug from Zoey. “I might not get to pick out the cute outfits, but I do love my girls — and the boys too. Really they’re all great!”
Inside the classroom, there can be joyful giggles, and nervous cries — especially when a little one is first dropped off in the morning. For the approximately 65 babies and toddlers at the Children’s Center, they don’t have to wait long or go far for a hug. There is always a friendly face with a warm smile close by for children needing comfort. Each of the 18 caregivers knows the children by name and has built trust to console even the biggest tears.
“Samantha is just an awesome caregiver who cares deeply for these kids,” said Shelly Godkin, Child Care Supervisor. “You can see she uses her whole heart to care for our kids. She absolutely loves her job and loves to be here and take care of the kids every day.”
Samantha and Shelly also agree it’s hard to have a bad day when you get so many hugs.
“If I’m feeling a little down, or just need something to cheer me up, I have the best job in the world. I get the best hugs and snuggles from these kids. It’s hard to have a bad day when you see how much love these kids have to offer,” said Samantha.
There are bittersweet moments: each year Samantha and her Tigger team say goodbye to their little friends who have taken up quite a bit of space in their teachers’ hearts. When the children turn three they move up to a new building, with new friends and new child care aides to love and learn alongside.
“It’s difficult to see them leave,” Samantha said. “You really build a strong bond with these kids. I try to visit them in the big kid building — it’s hard to say good-bye.” So instead of good-bye, it’s “TTFN! Ta-ta for now!
Written by Stephany Chalberg
Photos by Bob Slocum