By Sue Bury, Charity Chat Correspondent

From its start, the Early Childhood Fund has helped families pay for early childhood education and care, granting nearly $13,000 to 18 different families this year alone. This aid can help keep parents earning money while ensuring that the youngsters get the benefit of early stimulation.

As one single mom said, “If my kids could not attend daycare because of my inability to pay, I honestly have no clue what I would do. I can’t support them without working full time, but also struggle to send them to daycare full time. I do not want a handout, and hate that I have had to ask for one.” She continues, “But even with a college degree and great job that I love, it sometimes feels impossible.”

Now, in addition to helping parents pay for care at existing quality facilities, the Fund will boost the availability of child care by helping start-up facilities pay for improvements needed to obtain licensing.

Child care providers must be licensed by the State of Montana, with differing requirements depending on the number of children served. Folks interested in providing child care can get help from the Human Resource Development Council, a nonprofit agency that channels federal, state, and other funding to improve community life. HRDC guides start-up providers through “the weeds,” helping with education, obtaining a license, and getting the first year of operation under their belts. Where does the Early Childhood Fund come in? The Fund will help the start-up provider pay for simple building upgrades and equipment needed to meet licensing requirements.

What about folks watching a grandchild or a friend’s kids while the parents work? Those parents may be eligible for state funding to pay the care provider if the provider is licensed. Through a program called Friend, Family, Neighbor (FFN), the State of Montana will license a relative, friend, or neighbor to care for all the children in one family or up to two unrelated children — in many cases, with just a few improvements in the home, which the Early Childhood Fund can help pay for.

“We believe there are a lot of Carbon County children under age five who are getting care from grandparents or neighbors, so the parents can go to work,” says Janice Salpietro, RLACF Youth Program Coordinator. “If we can help them get the licensing, and the parents come within poverty guidelines, the child care provider can receive state funding to give the care.”

The Early Childhood Fund is helping expand quality care in our area. When you support the fund, you help our kids!


Caring for your grandkids?

If you’re caring for grandkids or a friend or neighbor’s children while the parents work, state funding may be available. You can search online for HRDC Child Care Provider Services and Montana Friend, Family, Neighbor for details. Still need help? Call RLACF at 406-446-2820 and ask for Janice.