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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Today’s must-read: postpartum depression

It takes a lot of courage to share a story like this. Melissa Bangs deserves applause and encouragement for letting the Missoulian bring her personal story of postpartum depression to readers. Same goes for her husband, Eric Ellingson.

Read the story, and check out the related video and links.

Michael Gallacher/Missoulian

Michael Gallacher/Missoulian

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MLK Jr. Day as seen by the next generation

Powerful stuff.

Each year the Missoulian hosts a contest for Missoula’s kids on a different theme for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I’m always blown away by the artwork, essays and poems offered by the kids right here at home. They show that these kids really get it – and open up new facets I’d never even considered.

So enjoy, but be warned – once you start reading the submissions from the winners you’ll want to read them all.

Congratulations, kids. You make us all proud.

Will Hansen, Kindergarten, Sussex School.

Will Hansen, Kindergarten, Sussex School.


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Time to get creative for Kids’ Holiday Drawing Contest

The kids and I are big on making our own Christmas presents each year. It’s fun, it’s thrifty and it’s a great way to spend time together – which is what the holidays are all about, right?

We have a rule that we absolutely cannot start any Christmas projects until after Thanksgiving. But we can still collect lots of great ideas. Oh yes we can.

And of course we’ll be making our own Christmas cards.

If your kids make their own cards too, you might encourage them to send one in to the Missoulian for the annual Holiday Drawing Contest. The Missoulian sponsors it, and publishes the top 25 submissions in the newspaper. The grand prize winner will become the 2014 holiday card for Youth Homes, Inc.


That’s a pretty good reason to participate. Another good reason to send that art in is that the first-place winners in each of two age groups will win $25. Which you could use to buy even more card stock, envelopes and glitter.

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An inspiring time to get started on MLK contest entries

On Tuesday, it was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. On Friday, it will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr.

Both of these events can be difficult things to talk about with kids. It helps that we have the soaring words of great leaders to guide the way.

Which makes me long for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, still months away. There’s a day to celebrate the ability of words to guide us through difficult times!

Western Montana’s young ones can start celebrating – and learning – today, if they wish, in preparation for the Missoulian’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. writing and art contest.

Each year, children from preschool age through 12th grade are welcome to participate in the contest by responding to a particular quote or theme from MLK. The theme for 2014 is “Keep Moving Forward” and the quote is “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But my all means, keep moving.”

The deadline is for submitting original drawings, paintings or other artwork is Jan. 6, which is still plenty of weeks away.

But if you’re looking for a great seque between then and now, I think this particular week offers plenty of inspiration.

Here’s more information from the article:

Winners in grade categories pre-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 will receive cash prizes in the written and art categories. Selected winning entries will be featured in the Missoulian.

Send entries to MLK Essay/Art Contest, Missoulian, P.O. Box 8029, Missoula, MT 59807.

The contest is sponsored by the Missoulian, MLK Day Planning Committee, NCBI Missoula and University of Montana Excellence Fund. Contact Debby Florence at 541-6891 or debby@ncbimissoula.org with questions.

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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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More on the secondhand underwear controversy

Last week Connie Schultz, in her syndicated column, brought to my attention a proposal from a Michigan state senator to require foster parents to use their children’s clothing allowance in thrift stores only.

Sen. Bruce Caswell has since dropped the proposal, but his idea got a lot of folks thinking about the value of new versus used clothing. Me, my mind went straight to underwear. As in, used underwear is not something I would buy; would the proposal have applied to children’s underpants as well? And shoes and socks and other hard-to-find-in-good-condition-and-in-the-right-season-and-in-the-right-size items?

This week Connie Schultz wrote a second column on the subject after speaking with a woman who has very definite ideas – rooted in personal experience – about used clothing.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine. Her column appears each Friday on the Missoulian’s Opinion page, but since she writes more than one column in a week, this one won’t be in the paper.

But you can read it here:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Saturday is deadline for A+ List nominees

For the past month or so, the Missoulian has sponsored the 2011 A+ List School Awards Contest to find Missoula’s “Most Influential Educator,” “Outstanding Student” and “Best Extracurricular or Classroom Project.”

Missoulians were invited to submit their nominees in each of three categories – elementary school, middle school and high school – to the website, www.missoula.com/aplus.

If you haven’t yet put in your submission, you might want to take note that the contest closes this Saturday. So hurry up and get those nominees named!

The winners will get prizes and be featured in a special section of the Missoulian that will run on May 3.

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Missoulian looking for A+ students and educators to honor

The A+ List School Awards Contest is now officially underway and actively soliciting submissions for Missoula’s “Most Influential Educator,” “Outstanding Student” and “Best Extracurricular or Classroom Project.”

The Missoulian-sponsored contest is broken out into three categories: Elementary school, middle school and high school submissions.

I’m sure the website, www.missoula.com/aplus, is going to be flooded with submissions.

Students, parents and educators themselves are encouraged to participate. The Missoulian also plans to partner with businesses in the community to provide prizes to the winners.

And, of course, the winners will also be featured in a special section in the Missoulian on May 3!

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