Here’s hoping UM gives the go-ahead to a new infant care center

Well, shoot. Looks like that new infant care center at the University of Montana isn’t going to be available just yet.

I guess it’s a good thing that ASUM is putting it to a student vote. The students should get a say in how their money is spent, after all. I just hope the student body recognizes how important newborn daycare services are to those who use them – parents and babies alike.

The vast majority of students at UM aren’t parents, and they may not know what it’s like to take care of kiddos and a course load at the same time. I applaud those new parents who are furthering their educations, improving their job prospects and building a better life for their families.

And I vividly remember what it was like when I toted my own newborn around campus nine years ago. I started taking Willow to class with me when she was two weeks old. She came to interviews with me and she spent a lot of time in the grungy old Kaimin offices, building up her immunities. Thankfully, I had very understanding, very supportive professors.

Of course, there were times when I absolutely couldn’t have Willow with me. I usually managed to cobble together help from friends and family for a few hours at a time. But it was always a stressful, seat-of-the-pants type of arrangement – and it remained so until I landed a gig at the Missoulian. That’s when my schedule finally became regular and predictable enough to arrange for a regular daycare provider.

Let me tell you something: Daycare for children younger than 2 is nearly impossible to find in Missoula, let alone GOOD daycare.

All children, especially babies, need the best possible care. Student parents need to know their children are in good hands when they can’t be with them.

I hope UM students will keep this in mind when they vote this Spring.

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Course promises to teach child care providers how to teach children mealtime manners

You know how mealtimes can be kind of chaotic at home? Imagine what it’s like at your child’s day care.

Of course, if you’re the child care provider, you don’t have to imagine! ‘Cause you’re right there for every. single. meal.

And you might just be interested in this course:

Pass the Peaches – Beginner Level Course

Attention early childhood professionals – Are mealtimes in your program relaxed, pleasant, polite, and enjoyable? They can be! Learn strategies to make mealtimes a healthy, peaceful, AND nutritious part of your child care day. This class will meet from 6-8pm on Monday, January 27, 2014. This training is $10 and is worth 2 training hours.

Please pre-register by contacting Child Care Resources at 728-6446, or visit our website at www.childcareresources.org/registration.

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Child care is expensive! Find out if you qualify for a subsidy

The following is a public service announcement sent out from the good folks at Child Care Resources.

Need help paying for child care?  Contact Child Care Resources to apply for a scholarship.  There are new higher income guidelines which mean more families are eligible.  To qualify, a family of three can earn up to $2,386 per month.  To see if you qualify, contact Child Care Resources at 406-728-6446 or go online to childcareresource.org.

Hey, sounds like it’s worth a call to me!

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Get fired up about foster care with dinner and a documentary

The new documentary from Missoula producer Matt Anderson and Missoula filmmaker Paige Williams is a must-see. It’s called “From Place to Place.” I watched it last night and was incredibly moved by the stories of these young adults making their way in Missoula after aging out the foster care system.

Then I read Joe Nickell’s story about the documentary in this morning’s Entertainer and was moved again by the story of how this film came to be.

One of the things I really like about the documentary is that it ends with different people in the film directly telling us what we can do to help repair a badly broken situation: We can watch out for the kids in our neighborhood; we can check in on all our extended family members to make sure everyone’s accounted for; and, of course, we can become foster parents.

Whatever you do, you should watch this documentary. It is screening for the first time in Montana this upcoming Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m. at the Wilma Theater. The doors will open at 6 p.m., and if you buy a ticket in advance (available through the website, www.fromplacetoplacemovie.com), it’s only $5.

Here’s something else: For the past few years I have had the privilege of getting to know the fine folks at the Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program, a part of Youth Homes Inc. I’ve seen first-hand just how much they care about these kids – and how hard they work to find them safe, loving, long-term families. I highly recommend that anyone interested in foster care or adoption check out their website or give them a call (721-2704 in Missoula).

And if you want to support Youth Homes, one fun way to do so is coming up on June 6. On that day, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., if you buy a burger (or veggie burger) at Scotty’s Table, the proceeds will be donated to Youth Homes.

The burgers at Scotty’s are all locally produced, and for $15 you get a burger, fries and a local beer. The restaurant is located in the bottom unit of the Wilma Theater, at 131 S. Higgins Ave.

For more information about the burger benefit call 541-1642.

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Teen pregnancy, foster care, and Child and Family Services

Lately I’m seeing a lot of opinions in the Missoulian having to do with mom stuff. I don’t know if it’s just the month of May being the month that’s home to Mother’s Day or what, but I’m liking it.

I do know that May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month – and I know this thanks to a letter to the editor from the Montana Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. That letter stated that “Each day in Montana, approximately three teens give birth” and went on to describe the challenges faces by these teen parents. It ended with a call to action: ” If parents, youth, schools, businesses, faith leaders and health care providers join together to address teen pregnancy, we can make a difference!”

Speaking of calls to action, the new documentary “From Place to Place,” produced by Missoula’s Matt Anderson, is already making huge waves – and it hasn’t even screened in Montana yet. The documentary follows the lives of two Missoula youth who age out of the foster care system – without a family.

These youth have become advocates for change; one spoke at a Montana child welfare conference earlier this month, and I understand they have spoken to other leaders in the national system as well. You can read Anderson’s guest column in the Missoulian here. And you can watch “From Place to Place” at its first Montana screening at the Wilma Theatre a week from today, on Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m.

And finally, in her guest column last week, Child and Family Services Division administrator Shirley K. Brown also had some important information to share – including information about how you can help protect Montana’s abused and neglected children:

In Montana, 903 children were removed from their homes because of child abuse or neglect from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010. The type of abuse experienced by these children includes physical neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and medical neglect.

Montana’s children are our future – children need a safe, stable family environment. Each individual in Montana can protect children who are being abused or neglected by reporting suspected abuse or neglect. To report concerns about a child’s safety, call 1-866-820-5437 (1-866-820-KIDS). Another way to help is by learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent. To learn about becoming a foster parent, call 1-866-939-7837 (1-866-9FOSTER) or email AskAboutFosterCare@mt.gov.

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Montana needs to solve its child care problems

Following up on an earlier post, I want to highlight today’s Missoulian editorial – which calls for basic improvements to Montana’s child care regulation and oversight. Particularly, in-home providers should be getting visits from state inspectors before they get their licenses. Anyone who works with young children – and especially children too young to understand or verbalize incidents that risk their health and well-being – should be subject to a comprehensive background check.

These changes won’t solve every problem, but they will get us started in the right direction.

P.S. There’s also a business story in today’s Missoulian about Kim Ormsby, who was named Montana Entrepreneur of the Year for her Natural Baby Company. In just a few short years, her Bozeman-based business has gone gangbusters and is now selling about 4,000 cloth diapers A MONTH to moms around the world. Missoula Mom wrote about her here.

– MM

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Attack of the summer camp guide!

Soccer illustration 72dpi

Smokejumper camp. Equestrian camp. Writing camp.

Math, filmmaking, art, gardening – you name it, there’s a camp for it in western Montana. And I should know, having spent ALL DAY earlier this week combing through the Missoulian’s exhaustive guide to summer camps. We’re talking more than 14,000 words, all aimed at helping parents choose a fantastic summer camp experience for their kids.

But oh, how to choose! Ballet camp? Soccer camp? Fishing camp? One thing’s for sure – if your child has a particular interest in a particular camp, you will want to snag a guide right away to make sure you secure a spot.  Availability is sure to shrink down fast once this guide hits the streets!

Look for the guide – it’ll be hard to miss – in Thursday’s newspaper.

– MM

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April child abuse brings May foster care

As Shirley Brown, Child and Family Services Division administrator for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, notes in her guest column in the Missoulian, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the May is Foster Parent Appreciation Month.

It’s a fitting sequence, as child abuse is usually followed by foster care – or at least it is when the system works as it should.

Throughout the next two months, Missoula and other communities in western Montana will be home to a number of events meant to raise awareness and deepen the pool of understanding about child abuse and foster care, as Brown mentioned in her column.

One event I’d like to highlight in particular is being organized by a group of social work students at the University of Montana and is scheduled, I believe, for April 27 at Meadowview Community Church. The lineup of speakers includes a pair of foster parents and their foster child, Bill Neaves of the Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program at Youth Homes, two professors from the university and Missoula Mayor John Engen.

I’ll post more details as they become available.

– MM

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Montana gets a zero for regulation of child care

Tristan Scott’s story about Montana’s poor rating (as in, scoring zero out of 140 points) when it comes to oversight of child care facilities in this state was certainly an eye-opener for me. I realize that my family has been blessed to find child care providers who went above and beyond the minimal requirements.

That much has been apparent since I first began the search for an in-home day care that would best meet my daughter’s needs more than four years ago. I got a list of providers from Child Care Resources, drove by most of them, called only a few and visited only two in person. The personal visits were enough to convince me which place was perfect for my little girl – but a few of the drive-bys left me wondering how desperate some parents must be for child care.

In any case, as CCR’s Kelly Rosenleaf notes in the story, regardless of how comfortable you are with your current child care provider, it’s important to have that talk about privacy and appropriate touching with your child.

I think it’s also clear that some changes need to be made in Montana’s system of child care regulation. With a “zero” score, we’ve really got nowhere to go but up.

– MM

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Child care providers on parade Saturday

On Saturday, tomorrow, Child Care Resources is hosting its 3rd annual Parade of Child Care Providers. Seven “high-quality child care facilities” in Missoula will be open for visiting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The parade is timely for two reasons: One, school is going to be letting out for the summer very soon, and a lot of parents need to start lining up child care arrangements now. Second, Missoulian reporter Tristan Scott informed me yesterday that he’s working on a story about child care regulation and oversight. Watch for it in an upcoming edition of the Missoulian!

For information and a map of the child care tour, go to http://www.missoula.com/childcare/.

– MM

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