Grace Iino Child Care Center Provides Nurturing Support for Babies in Little Tokyo

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Grace Iino was an early board member of the non-profit Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), and a well-respected Nisei teacher and principal in the Venice-Culver community. Since 2003, LTSC has operated the Grace Iino Child Care Center, a program of the LTSC Children and Family Services Department, in her name.

The center is located within LTSC’s affordable housing apartments, Casa Heiwa, and provides licensed childcare for children up to 2½ years old to families who work or live in Little Tokyo and Downtown L.A. LTSC will be opening up new childcare spaces in July.

Jonas Hanami, 2 years old, on the Grace Iino playground. (Photo by  Sharon Escamilla)

Jonas Hanami, 2 years old, on the Grace Iino playground. (Photo by Sharon Escamilla)

Located at the edge of Little Tokyo, down the street from the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Union Church and Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, Grace Iino Child Care Center is a “home away from home” for infants and toddlers.

“Quality center-based childcare for babies is rare in LA County, so we are fortunate that LTSC can offer childcare in J-Town… and we also have two wonderful preschools at nearby Buddhist temples, Nishi Center and Lumbini Child Development Center,” said Jenni Kuida, LTSC’s director of children and family services.

For parents who commute to Little Tokyo and Downtown, the center offers a convenient location near their jobs, with open access to their children – for example, if they are breastfeeding their babies, they can visit at lunchtime, or participate in Parent Read Friday activities for toddlers.

“I work in Little Tokyo, so dropping off my two-year-old son Jonas to Grace Iino each morning is definitely a positive for my family. It’s awesome that it’s just two blocks away,” said Clement Hanami, director of programs at the Japanese American National Museum.

For Little Tokyo residents, the center offers childcare within walking distance, with a safe and kid-friendly place for children to learn. The facility has spacious indoor classrooms, as well as a playground area with plenty of space for exploring outdoor activities.

Grace Iino provides a safe and trusting environment, giving parents comfort and relief that their child is being nurtured. Grace Iino’s teachers actively practice “responsive care,” promoting a strong bond between the child and teacher by responding to their daily needs with love and respect.

Grace Iino’s staff includes credentialed teachers — with Early Childhood Education units and Child Development permits issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing —who create daily activities based on a curriculum that is developmental and child-centered.

“We offer much more than a babysitting service. We give peace of mind to working parents. We help guide their children through their developmental milestones, and support them as they learn concepts that will prepare them for preschool,” said Rocio Hernandez, Grace Iino’s director, who has worked at LTSC since the center opened.

LTSC’s mission is to meet the critical needs of people and build community, improve the lives of families through social services, and strengthen neighborhoods through affordable housing and community development.

“We are proud to carry on the legacy of Mrs. Iino, a Japanese American educator who dedicated her career to children; and later in life to seniors, just like LTSC does,” said Kuida.

Grace Iino Child Care Center is currently accepting wait list applications for spaces opening up in July. For more information, contact Kuida at (213) 473-1699 or [email protected] or visit www.ltsc.org/index.php/ltsc-programs/childcare.

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