What you can do to help abused and neglected kids in MT

This month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, is almost over. The Missoulian’s been featuring a series on the topic for the past several weeks, and today we published our own entry. Hopefully, it’s at least as helpful as some of the other columns written by the experts on child abuse prevention in western Montana.

The editorial is aimed at encouraging people to at least get started thinking about the hurt children in our community and how to help them. To consider becoming a foster family or a court-appointed special advocate, or perhaps lending some volunteer time, extra household supplies or monetary donations to one of the several organizations that provide support to families at risk.

The long-term aim is to stop the cycle of abuse and give children the best possible start in life. The immediate result is making a real difference in the life of a kid, right here in Montana, who needs to know that he’s not alone.

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Missoula couple named Foster Parents of the Year

Wow, congratulations – and thank you – to Kim and Tyson Moore. The Missoula couple are this year’s Montana Foster Parents of the Year.  So if you see them around town with their kids – they have two bio kids, a foster kid and are adopting a 1-year-old foster child – give them a round of applause.

Another Missoulian you’ll want to applaud: Cori Stern, who is being given the CASA Volunteer of the Year award.

Read on for more details on the awards ceremony this Monday, as well as the full list of Montanans receiving awards for their work preventing child abuse and neglect:

Read the rest of this entry »

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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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State of the Young Child Luncheon coming up in Missoula

Susan Barmeyer of the Healthy Start Council here in Missoula just dropped me a note about the upcoming seventh annual State of the Young Child Luncheon. It’s for “Missoulians who are interested in young children and their families,” her note says.

Hey, that’s us!

More specifically, the luncheon will “feature local speakers who will discuss the effects of alcohol on babies, childhood hunger and nutrition, and improving communities by helping children and youth excel.”

It’s coming up this next Thursday, a week from today, and will go from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at City Life Community Center, 1515 Fairview.

The speakers are free but the lunch isn’t: it’s $8.75 for “professionals” and $5 for parents, and scholarships are available. For more information or to register, give Susan Barmeyer a call at 721- 3000 extension 1022.

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Workshop on child predator prevention starts Thursday

There’s lots of info in the paper today about the workshop on how to spot – and stop – child predators. The two-day workshop starts tomorrow, Thursday, at 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. It’s a joint forum organized by Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, the Flathead County Children’s Advocacy Center and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office.

The three are teaming up to help teach adults how to protect children from child molesters – not just parents, but teachers and other child care workers as well.

The two-and-a-half-hour training session will include a presentation by the co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Oregon, Cory Jewell, as well as a talk on Internet crimes against children by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson.

Interested? It’s on the sixth floor of the Garlington, Lohn and Robinson Building, at 350 Ryman Street. Please note that registration IS required, and you can register by contacting Kimberly Dudik via email at kdudik@mt.gov.

Dudik is also one of the authors of a guest column in today’s Missoulian, which you can read here.

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Shaken Baby Syndrome topic of Great Falls conference

The two-day Family and Community Heath Conference put on by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services starts today in Great Falls, and is bringing in a national expert to talk about how to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome.

This is the syndrome that results when an infant is severely or repeatedly shaken. It can cause serious and permanent damage to a baby’s eyes and brain. And it’s a form of child abuse.

The national expert who will be speaking this afternoon in Great Falls is Julie Price, of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, and the title of her talk is “The Period of PURPLE Crying.”

Here’s a little more background on Price:

Price, of Utah, has 19 years in education, training and program management. In addition to her work with the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Price oversees Utah’s Period of PURPLE Crying® hospital-based program. She assists hospital administrators, education personnel and maternity services with nurse training and coordination of the Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention and parent education program.

And here’s a little bit more about the PURPLE Crying program:

The Period of PURPLE Crying® is the phrase used to describe the point in a baby’s life when he or she cries more than at any other time. This period of increased crying is often described as “colic”, but there have been many misunderstandings about what “colic” really is.

The acronym PURPLE is used to describe specific characteristics of an infant’s crying during this phase. The word PERIOD is important because it lets parents know that it is temporary and will come to an end.

P: Peak of crying. A baby may cry more each week. The most at 2 months, then less at 3-5 months.
U: Unexpected. Crying can come and go and there is no clear reason why.
R: Resists soothing. A baby may not stop crying no matter what a parent does.
P: Pain-like face. A crying that may look like the baby is in pain, even when he/ she is not.
L: Long lasting. Crying which lasts as long as five hours or more a day.
E: Evening. A baby may cry more in the late afternoon or evening.

“It may be confusing and concerning to be told a baby ‘has colic’ because it may sound like the baby has an illness or a condition that is abnormal,” says Ann Buss of the DPHHS Family and Community Health Bureau. “Parents and caregivers need to know that what they are experiencing is indeed normal and, although frustrating, is simply a phase in their child’s development that will pass.”

This is important, says DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell, because, “The concept of the Period of Purple Crying is a new way to help parents understand this time in their baby’s life, which is a normal part of every infant’s development. DPHHS is committed to bringing this valuable information to Montanans.”

Here’s more about the presentation:

This presentation is part of an overall DPHHS effort being led by the Montana’s Children Trust Fund of DPHHS to educate families of babies born in Montana about Shaken Baby Syndrome and Abusive Head Trauma. Recently, the MTCTF distributed 45,000 ‘Crying Cards’ to parents of newborns though hospitals, family and pediatric practices, child care facilities, and groups that offer babysitting classes.


HB 281 would revise laws for guardians ad litem

House Bill 281 is sponsored by Missoula Democrat Betsy Hands in the Montana Legislature. It would revise the statutes governing guardians ad litem to require training and establish a grievance process, among other things. Here’s a letter I just received in support of its passage:

I am writing in response to recent action by our judges of the 4th Judicial District to institute “local rules” for guardians ad litem, individuals assigned by the court to represent children in families with contentious custody issues. Montana’s laws governing GALs are some of the weakest in the country.

The half-page Montana statute currently guiding the work of GALs states that a GAL may be appointed by the court to represent a child “with respect to the child’s support, parenting, and parental contact.” The GAL “has access to court, medical, psychological, law enforcement, social services, and school records pertaining to the child and the child’s siblings and parents or caretakers.” GALs in Montana currently charge their clients $60-$200/hour.

This same highly paid person, delegated with the utmost authority over the lives of children and families, is not required to have any education or training. They are not required to have knowledge or experience in areas of child development, child abuse, substance abuse, or domestic violence. They are not required even to have a two-year technical college degree. This same person has no oversight beyond the judge who has assigned them to the case.

Thanks to our local judges, Missoula County now has some very general guidelines for GALs to follow as they navigate the custody and legal system, making life-altering recommendations for children and families. Unfortunately, this same group of judges, with the exception of Judge Dusty Deschamps, does not support the current legislation, House Bill 281, which would mandate education and training, as well as oversight.

Montana citizens cannot allow HB 281 to go unpassed; we cannot allow this unregulated industry to continue controlling the lives of children in such an uneducated, uninformed, unsupervised way. Please call or write your legislators today. Urge them to vote for HB 281.

Emily McKey,

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New passports to replace mothers and fathers with parents 1 and 2

I have a passport, you know, just in case. Montana bordering Canada and all, the occasional trip up north is perfectly feasible, and it’s best to be prepared, right?

So I was interested to read that, as part of its scheduled tweaking of the DS-11 passport form (boring, I know, but hang in there), the U.S. State Department of Consular Affairs is planning to stop asking for the names of mothers and fathers of child applicants under the age of 16. Instead, it will ask for information about “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.”

So what? Well, the word tweak is being hailed on one side as a win for gay rights advocates, and on the other as “political correctness run amok” (scroll down to the Jan. 10 entry).

Honestly, the first thing that passed through my caffeine-deprived brain the morning I read about this change was the passage from Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat and the Hat” in which he releases Thing 1 and Thing 2. Probably because I read that book almost EVERY NIGHT, and just about have the whole thing memorized.

I wonder what it would take to convince the State Department to go with “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” in place of “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” (Just kidding!)

Seriously though, I’m not at all offended by being referred to as a “parent” instead of a “mother” on an official government document.

I might even start encouraging my daughter to call me “Parent 1” instead of her usual “mama.” (Again, kidding!) It would be a lot better than being relegated to “Parent 2” status, don’t you think?

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