Montana gets federal grant to study paid family and medical leave

The National Partnership for Women & Families sent out a news release today congratulating Montana for being one of four states to win a federal grant to study family and medical leave.

The announcement is copied below:

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Governor appoints new members to Family Support Services

Yesterday Gov. Steve Bullock announced a list of new appointments to Montana’s Family Support Services Advisory Council. Here it is without further comment – except for a quick congratulations to Missoula’s own highly qualified Jennifer Banna and Peggy Grimes!

Family Support Services

  • Jennifer Banna, Missoula.  Qualification:  Parent Representative.  Banna is a Supports Broker for the State of Montana, and serves as a Parent Partner for PLUK (Parents Let’s Unite for Kids).
  • Sylvia Danforth, Miles City.  Qualification:  Provider, Part C.  Danforth is the Executive Director of the Developmental Education Assistance Program in Miles City.
  • Dr. Corey Fish, Bozeman.  Qualification:  Health Care Representative.  Fish is a Pediatrician at Acorn Pediatrics.
  • Peggy Grimes, Missoula.  Qualification:  Homelessness Advocacy Experience.  Grimes is a founding member of Endless Sky L3C.
  • Lucy Hart-Paulson, Missoula.  Qualification:  Montana Speech-Language Therapists Association Representative.  Hart-Paulson is the Department Chair for the Communicative Sciences and Disorders Department in the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Services at the University of Montana, Missoula.
  • Ryane Holzwarth, Billings.  Qualification:  Quality Improvement Specialist.  Holzwarth is a Quality Improvement Specialist for the Developmental Disabilities Program in Billings.
  • Jody Jones, Ronan.  Qualification:  Head Start Representative.  Jones is the Sepcial Services Coordinator for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Early Childhood Services.
  • Deborah Kercher, Great Falls.  Qualification:  Parent Representative.  Kercher is a Senior Court Clerk for the City of Great Falls Municipal Court.
  • Christine Lux, Bozeman.  Qualification:  Personnel Preparation Representative.  Lux is an Assistant Professor and Program Leader of Early Childhood Education and Child Services at Montana State University, Bozeman.
  • Novelene Martin, Helena.  Qualification:  Parent Representative.  Martin is the parent of a nine-year old child with intellectual disabilities.
  • David Munson, Billings.  Qualification:  Provider, Part C.  Munson is the Director of Early Childhood Intervention for Billings Public Schools.
  • Rep. Jean Price, Great Falls.  Qualification:  State Legislator.  Price is a Representative for House District 21 in Great Falls and a retired art teacher.
  • Norma Zelzer, Great Falls.  Qualification:  Family Support Specialist.  Zelzer is a Family Support Specialist with Quality Life Concepts in Great Falls.

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Missoula’s Banna chosen for state Family Support Services Advisory Council

Gov. Steve Bullock’s recent high-profile appointments – of a senator to replace Max Baucus and a lieutenant governor to replace John Walsh – have been grabbing all the headlines lately.

But Bullock makes appointments all the time. Just last week, he released another list of appointments to various state councils and boards.

Missoulians in particular might want to take special note of one appointment in particular: Jennifer Banna, of Missoula, was named to the Montana Family Support Services Advisory Council.

According to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services:

The Montana Family Support Services Advisory Council serves as Montana’s interagency coordinating council to advise and assist the Part C Family Education and Support program, part of the Developmental Disabilities Program, to plan, develop, and implement Montana’s comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, coordinated program of early intervention and family support services for children, aged birth to five, with disabilities and their families.  The Council advises appropriate local and State agencies regarding the integration of services and supports for infants and toddlers and their families, regardless of whether the infants and toddlers are eligible for Montana’s Part C services or for other services in the State.

Banna’s qualifications as a parent representative stem from her experience as a Parent Partner with Parents Let’s Unite for Kids (PLUK), which “represents the 30,000 families of children with disabilities and special health care needs in Montana, as well as serves as Montana’s Parent Training and Information Center, the Family to Family Health Information and Education Center, and the Family Voices state affiliate.”

Important stuff. Congratulations, Jennifer Banna!

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Foster parent education sessions

As it’s National Adoption Awareness Month, all through November you can expect to see a lot of stories about the processes, challenges and outcomes involved with adoption.

TODAY, for one, is running a week-long series on adoption. Today’s segment, “Adoption challenges: It’s worth it – but it’s not easy,” includes some tips from adoption experts for prospective parents. The third tip made me laugh: “Keep your mind on your end goal. Therese thinks the pain of labor must be similar to the grueling adoption process: It’s horrible while you’re in it, but the memory of the pain fades away when your baby is in your arms.”

As someone who’s been lucky enough to experience both birth and adoption, I think that’s totally true. Although we finalized our adoption in August and I still have nightmares about missing paperwork.

If you’re interested in sharing my nightmares, another TODAY segment lists a few suggestions to help you get started. The first step, it says, is to decide which kind of adoption is right for you.

But how do you decide?

My family went with the Dan Fox Family Care Program at Youth Homes, and we highly recommend it. The awesome staff there offers a regular series of Foster Parent Education sessions, and it’s a great way to learn more about this particular kind of adoption without any commitment or cost.

Watch this short (eight and half minutes is all!) documentary featuring actual parents who have worked with the program, try not to cry, then call 541-1664 to sign up for the next session.

The next series will start in January. Here’s the full schedule.

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Hellgate Elementary holiday craft fair to help needy families

With Halloween just a few days away, let’s turn our attention to Christmas.

No, for real.

The kind folks with the Hellgate Elementary PTA sent me a note about their upcoming craft fair and asked if Missoula Mom could help spread the word that they are accepting registrations for craft vendors.

The craft fair will take place on Saturday, Dec. 3, so there’s still plenty of time for vendors to get ready – but they shouldn’t wait to turn in their registrations. It costs $30 per 8-foot by 8-foot booth, tables are $8 each, and each vendor will be required to offer up one $10 item for raffle.

The raffle items will be collected into baskets to help raise money for needy Hellgate families, to help them make ends meet over the holidays.

The fair will open in Hellgate’s Middle School Gym and Commons Area (Building 3) at 2385 Flynn Lane in Missoula. The sale will start at 9 a.m. and continue through 3 p.m., so vendors should expect to start setting up at 8 a.m. and stay for the duration.

Vendor registration forms are available by contacting Theresa Tanner at or 406-529-8579.

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Bouncing back just in time for Unplug and Play Week!

I got the flu or something like it last week and was an unhappy camper for a few days. Of course my first thought, after that first barf, was, “But I can’t get sick NOW!” You know, because I have all these Things To Do. But when it is really ever a good time to be sick?

Turns out, a few days just before Unplug and Play Week is not such a bad time. After hours upon hours holed up on the couch watching TV, we are ready to turn the boob tube OFF for a good long while, and this week offers plenty of opportunities to do something fun as a family.

Starting tomorrow, for instance, the Families First Children’s Museum in downtown Missoula is offering free admission between the hours of 4 and 5 p.m. The offer runs from Tuesday, April 19 to Saturday, April 23.

Here’s what Families First has to say about Unplug and Play Week:

Screen time cuts into family time and is a leading cause of obesity in both adults and children. Excessive use of screens for recreational purposes leads to a more sedentary and solitary lifestyle and that is unhealthy for all of us, both mentally and physically. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher said “We are raising the most overweight generation of youngsters in American history… This week is about saving lives.”

The Missoulian included a special section last Thursday that has a pretty comprehensive run-down of all the various events and offers, ranging from teen-focused time at the public library to the annual Easter Egg and Treasure Hunt at the Missoula County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

And of course, the website is also a great resource – it has a detailed calendar of events as well as a parent toolkit and tips:

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Healthy Kids Day aims to strengthen family health

The YMCA in Missoula is celebrating Healthy Kids Day this Saturday with free activities from 9 a.m. to noon.

As described in an article in today’s Health section of the Missoulian, the YMCA seeks to build on five “Pillars of a Healthy Family Home.” These pillars are: eat healthy, play every day, get together, go outside, and sleep well.

I guess three outa five ain’t bad. My family totally rocks the eating healthy, getting together and going outside pillars. But playing every day? Sleeping well? Not so much. There’s always so much work to be done, and so little time to do it all.

Kara McCarthy, the community relations coordinator for Community Medical Center and the author of the article, advises families to “Have a different family member choose a 30-minute activity each night.” That sounds doable. Perhaps we’ll give it a try. And when it’s my turn to pick a family activity, I will try – TRY – not to choose cleaning the bathroom.

If you’re looking for inspiration too, go over to the YMCA (it’s located at 3000 S. Russell St.) this Saturday morning, and check out the possibilities offered by Mismo Gymnastics, Missoula Parks and Recreation, Kids Nutrition, the Missoula Maulers hockey team, Matz Family Chiropractic, Child Development Center, AmeriCorps Vista, Y Zumba, and the Missoula Kids Marathon. Word is that the Community Medical Center’s CareFlight helicopter will be there too.

If you’re looking for more information, check out the YMCA website,, or email Keri McHugh at

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Women’s Fair will offer plenty to interest parents

Hey, moms are women too – and the fourth annual Women’s Fair in Missoula promises to provide plenty of interest and fun for both.

This year’s fair – it’s happening tomorrow, people! – will also help raise awareness of some very important local nonprofits: Missoula Aging Services, The Girls Way, Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Programs, and Ronald McDonald House. Note that f three of the four organizations listed above directly help kids and their families.

Here are the details:

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Man caves are out, mom caves are in

My husband’s stuff has a way of invading our shared space. There’s “our” stuff and then there’s “my” stuff and “his” stuff. “My” stuff tends to stay where I put it, in small and tidy piles, while my husband’s stuff has slowly filled our small garage to the ceiling and regularly spills into adjacent areas.
Just as I occassionally grab a shovel and scoop all of my daughter’s clothes, baby dolls, stuffed animals, Polly Pockets, books, papers, crayons, etc., back into her room, I sometimes do the same with my husband’s collection of tools, magazines, bike parts and other toys.

Turns out I have been missing out. Instead of trying to push my family members’ stuff back into their respective designated spaces, I should have been carving out and defending a space of my own.

That’s right: I need a mom cave.

Just as a “man cave” is a sanctuary for men, a “mom cave” is a santuary for moms. A man cave, according to Wikipedia, “is a male-only space to retreat to, watch sports matches, or play video games. According to psychiatrist and author Scott Haltzman, it is important for a man to have a place to call his own, referring to a male area to which to retreat. Some psychologists claim that a man cave can provide refuge from stressful surroundings and be beneficial to marriage.”

Well, Word Spy calls a mom cave “an area of a house that a woman can decorate to her tastes and be alone to pursue her own projects and interests. Also: mum cave.” It cites as references several mentions in recent articles, such as this USA Today piece that ran on Jan. 22 titled “Women find a space of their own with mom caves.” Many more examples can be found with a quick Google search.

I think it’s time to go spelunking, fellow moms.

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Take Heart Gallery to heart on last day of National Adoption Month

Have you been to Southgate Mall recently? Did you notice the large lighted posters of children on display? Did you stop and read about them – about how they are all children currently available for adoption?

The display is called the Heart Gallery, and it’s meant to draw attention to children in need of forever homes by drawing attention to a handful of individual kids. It has been on display throughout the month of November because November is National Adoption Month.

Read more about the Heart Gallery and Montana’s foster care children in Coral Beck’s recent guest opinion piece in the Missoulian. Coral Beck works in Missoula, and is the Western region administrator for the Child and Family Services Division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

She notes that you can get more information about Montana’s adoption process by calling 1-866-9FOSTER (1-866-936-7837).

– MM

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