Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Staff Spotlight is a series that highlights and celebrates the dedicated staff of International Institute of Los Angeles.

As a Family Child Care (FCC) Coordinator with IILA’s Child Development Division, Pamela Kwok provides monthly trainings to child care providers on child development, health and safety, and curriculum planning to ensure they maintain high quality and compliance with government standards; provides quarterly trainings to parents on child development, nutrition, and social skills for children; and handles issues between parents and providers.

Pamela has been with IILA for 34 years and will be retiring at the end of August 2021.

Prior to IILA, Pamela was a school social worker for visually disabled children in Hong Kong. When Pamela first started in 1987, there were only 4 licensed FCC providers and very few safety and quality standards. When California enacted numerous requirements for providers in the ‘90s (like first aid, CPR, and other health and safety codes), Pamela saw that many Chinese-speaking providers had difficulty keeping up and that there was a great need to make state guidelines accessible. Pamela took child development courses in college, gained a better understanding of child care principles, and began to translate materials and resources to ensure that FCCs could meet the new guidelines.

When the LA County Office of Education was given federal funding in 2000 to develop the Child Care Training Institute, no services were available in Chinese. Pamela went to the director to advocate for Chinese-language materials, helped translate content, and got Chinese trainings implemented. Around 2006, when Pamela learned about funding to provide training from the Southern California Association for the Education of Young Children (SCAEYC) to help providers receive accreditation from the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), she saw an opportunity for Chinese-speaking FCCs to greatly improve their quality of care. Pamela arranged training and translations and ultimately saw 11 providers across LA accredited. These family day care homes were the first—and today still among the very few—Chinese-speaking FCCs to receive this accreditation. These advocacy efforts on behalf of child care centers to have access to resources are among Pamela’s proudest accomplishments with IILA.

Has there been a client story that is particularly memorable or meaningful to you?

“There was a child who was 10 months old and her mother found out that the child couldn’t hear and wasn’t being responsive. The mother came to me and asked for help diagnosing her child. The mother didn’t speak English and since I couldn’t speak directly to health care providers over the phone, I went with them to get information and resources at the regional health center. They referred her daughter to so many hearing, speech and cognitive tests, MRIs, and other screenings. I also went with them to UCLA Medical Center and Children’s Hospital. Finally, I took her to the school district and she was able to send her daughter to an early start program that could accommodate her.

“Now the child is a college graduate and is working. But at that time, her mom was so disappointed with so many things. I had to encourage her a lot. Because of the language barrier, Asian parents who don’t speak English often don’t attend school meetings or parent conferences. They feel like those opportunities are not accessible to them. So I encouraged her to start trying to go because she needed to fight for resources for her child. Eventually, the mother started attending and speaking up. She was able to get her daughter approved for language therapy programs. After that, she always attended meetings, took American Sign Language classes, and volunteered in her daughter’s classroom to advocate for her and make sure she had what she needed. Even today, we still talk. Once and a while the mother will call me to talk and catch up.”

How have you seen the impact of the Child Development Division’s work in the community?

“We try to send a message that early childhood educators are very important. Besides the parents, they are the first teacher of the child. If you want a good education for your child, the background of the provider and what resources they have access to are very important. How resources are allocated to different providers has a big impact on children. I think that providers must realize they are very important and that they deserve to get all the resources they can. Thirty years ago, many providers did not have training and resources. They did not feel empowered or taken seriously. I would always tell them that they are not babysitters, they are Early Childhood Educators. We’ve seen a big change now. Everyone needs to recognize the value, power, and importance of these child care providers.”

Learn more about IILA’s Child Development Division (CDD) here.

If you are in need of assistance, please call 323.224.3800.