meet along the way: Amy Loomis-McDonald

This story was published in the May 2024 issue of The Best Years as “Faces of Southeast Missouri: Amy Loomis-McDonald.”

Amy Loomis-McDonald, program director of Thrive Birth to Five, says her children are the reason she does what she does. She has been a foster parent since 1996 and has four adopted children, guardianship of two children and a current long-term foster placement. Because she “loves meeting people [whose] vision of family is so open,” she is also a foster parent trainer.

With Thrive Birth to Five, Loomis-McDonald works with child care providers in 22 counties across Southeast Missouri to teach skills like conscious discipline. She has also done home visits with families, to help parents learn skills for interacting with their children in developmentally-appropriate ways.

Loomis-McDonald views her job as sharing the knowledge she has about early childhood development with others, so they can utilize it when working with their own or others’ children, to help kids get on the right track for kindergarten and the rest of their schooling.

“I love working with parents, because you just never know. You never know what is going to happen or the outcome, and it’s just amazing,” Loomis-McDonald says. “Even if the environment is not what most people would deem nice, [I love] the beauty of when you see a parent love their kid or see their kid can do something for the first time.”

Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer

Loomis-McDonald studied child development at Southeast Missouri State University during her undergraduate education and then went on to graduate school at Kansas State, where she studied adolescence and youth counseling and worked in an inclusionary lab school with special needs children. She worked in intensive in-home services for her first job, helping families whose children were close to going into foster care. She says during this time, she “fell in love with working with these families” and that she “sees so much beauty” in them.

Next, she worked with pre-kindergarten children with aggressive behaviors, then as a liaison for families, and then as an early childhood parent educator. Then, she worked as a stay-at-home mom to raise three of her adopted children, while training foster parents in the evenings. She began her current position when her youngest at the time went to kindergarten in 2005.

Loomis-McDonald says when teaching child care providers and parents about conscious discipline, childhood education and developmental psychology expert Dr. Becky Bailey states giving a child 10 minutes per day of undivided attention — where the phone is down and the TV and other media are turned off — reduces power struggles by 50%.

Loomis-McDonald says the most important part of raising a child as a parent or grandparent is spending time with them.

“It’s just enjoying those little moments with your child, because it goes by so fast. And like I tell my parents all the time, you are their rockstar. You mean more to them than anyone. And they look at you, and they’re going to do whatever you do — the good, the bad, the ugly,” Loomis-McDonald says. 

She cites the difficulty of getting into infant care, the lack of night and weekend care centers, and the high cost of child care driven by the expenses associated with running a child care center as current challenges facing the Cape Girardeau community. She organized a meeting for all five Cape Girardeau County school districts, as well as child care representatives from throughout the area, to come together to discuss potential solutions to these issues. She hopes in the future, collaboration continues in the community, and when she retires in the future, Thrive Birth to Five is stronger than when she first came.

The success of students in school and the future of the region depends on it.

“I think people just take it for granted that kids are going to be fine,” Loomis-McDonald says. “Kids are resilient, yeah, but kids need loving relationships. That’s the whole groundwork.”


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