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Governor, DPHHS announce $24M to support families, children

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News from the office of Governor Gianforte

HELENA — Together with Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Charlie Brereton, Governor Greg Gianforte announced on June 22 a $24 million investment in the state’s early childhood system.

“Promoting the healthy growth and development of our young kids, Montana’s early childhood providers support hardworking families, strengthen our economy, and build a brighter future for our state,” Gov. Gianforte said. “We’ll continue to invest in their success as they serve our kids, families, and communities.”

Over the next three years, Montana will receive $24 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the Montana Bright Futures project at DPHHS.

The project is designed to increase access to quality childcare, promote strong, healthy families, and address childcare workforce availability, recruitment, and retention.

“We elected to pursue this federal funding given our ongoing efforts to strengthen Montana’s early childhood system, including access to childcare,” Dir. Brereton said. “It will support our continued work with stakeholders to identify and implement targeted strategies that meet the needs of the families we serve.”

As part of the Montana Bright Futures project, DPHHS will pilot a universal home visiting program this year to meet growing demand for expanded home visiting support.

 The visits will provide screening and referrals to early childhood and health supports for families in need including behavioral health and economic services.

 Universal home visiting will complement the department’s existing home visiting programs for children under the age of five and ensure families receive early short-term visits in the months following child birth.

 “Many families need support in those first few days and weeks following a birth,” administrator of the DPHHS Early Childhood and Family Support Division Tracy Moseman said. “In addition, this is a time when some new mothers face financial and mental health challenges as they care for their newborn. This program will help serve as a bridge to connect new and expecting families to services.”

 Contracting local providers, the $24 million investment will also be used to fund Crisis Child Care Centers to serve Montana families needing emergency care for children ages zero to eight. The centers will be used to serve families in crisis, such as those escaping domestic violence, impacted by a mental health or substance use crisis, or experiencing homelessness.

 With an emphasis on underserved communities with vulnerable populations, the centers will also support the prevention of child abuse and neglect by providing families with a safe place to take their children in times of crisis. 

 DPHHS anticipates the universal home visiting program and the crisis child centers will be two of approximately 10 other strategies to supplement the early childhood system, making up nearly 50% of the funding.

 To improve early child care staff retention and address workforce shortages, DPHHS plans to dedicate roughly 25% of the remaining funding to expand the Raise Montana Substitute Services program. The program helps maintain staff-to-child ratios by recruiting, on-boarding, and mobilizing substitute child care workers.

 In addition, DPHHS intends to offer recruitment and retention mini-grants to licensed child care providers across the state to stabilize their workforce as well as support their continuing education.

 In collaboration with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, DPHHS also plans to expand apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to supplement recruitment opportunities.

 Finally, the remaining funding will provide for stakeholder engagement, additional developmental screening, data collection, tribal consultations, and an updated needs assessment and strategic plan to identify other needs of the early child care system.

 The investment comes one week after Gov. Gianforte increased funding for the Best Beginnings Scholarship program, expanding access to child care for hundreds of young Montanans.

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