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WATCH: Helms joins CCAoA Board of Directors

by Brad Parker | January 4, 2022 at 4:03 a.m.
Terri Helms, program director of Child Care Aware West Central Arkansas, on Monday discusses her appointment to Child Care Aware of America’s board of directors. - Photo by Tyler Wann of The Sentinel-Record

Terri Helms, program director of Child Care Aware West Central Arkansas at National Park College, will join the board of directors of Child Care Aware of America this month.

"It's an overwhelmingly humbling experience for me to be a part of a group that I so admire and respect," Helms said Monday.

"I've served on many committees, I've served on boards before, but never at this level in this capacity. The expectations are great and I like a good challenge. So I have to remind myself, be careful what I asked for because it is here," she said.



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Child Care Aware of America is a national membership organization that works with state and local child care resource and referral agencies, including Child Care Aware of Central Arkansas, and other community partners, to ensure that all families have access to "quality, affordable child care," according to a news release.

CCAoA "leads innovative projects that increase the quality and availability of child care, and advance the early childhood education profession." It also conducts research and advocates for child care policies that foster equity and improve the lives of children and families, it said.

Years before taking on her current role at NPC, Helms started her career as a paraprofessional and interpreter for the deaf at a public school in Lincoln, Nebraska. She said this position taught her the value of focusing resources and attention on each and every child, emphasizing inclusive practices and the importance of family engagement.

Helms later worked as a volunteer in her children's public schools, in faith-based programs, camps and community service agencies, and taught as a substitute while completing her degrees and working in child care facilities.

Her first supervisory position was at a Head Start program and, after relocating to Arkansas, she became an early childhood education trainer, a child development associate instructor, technical assistance for quality, state-funded pre-K lead teacher and facility director for a private, then faith-based, Quality Level 3 program.

Helms believes leadership is about encouraging others to be their best, using the strengths they have and stretching themselves beyond what they thought was possible, she said in the news release.

This new role is on a national scale and Helms said it is an opportunity she never imagined.

She said she has been going to CCAoA's national conferences since 2012 and in the process has learned that child care programs throughout the country struggle with similar issues.

"It's just awe-inspiring to know what is going on nationally. We sometimes think about regional, 'This is our issues,' but to nationally meet people that are dealing with the same thing ... it doesn't matter if you're in California, Montana, or Arkansas," she said.

"I'm going to be the lone southerner on this committee," she said. "Arkansas is a standout. The Division of Childcare is exceptional in their planning. And so I give a lot of credit to them and just the early childhood professionals in Arkansas (who) hold each other accountable to high standards."

"We're honored to have Terri join our Board," Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., CEO of Child Care Aware of America, said in the release. "Along with our current board members, she will guide our organization as we help create an equitable, transformed child care system in 2022 and beyond."

"My gratitude goes to National Park College and the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education for their support, as well as many early childhood mentors, teachers, family members, friends, students and child care providers who have held me accountable with high expectations and encouragement for this opportunity to serve as a member of the CCAoA Board," Helms said in the release.

"The journey is more than I ever dreamed and there is no doubt that this position will bring new growth through new expectations and challenges," she said.

Print Headline: WATCH: Helms joins CCAoA Board of Directors

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