HELENA — The Montana Child Care Business Connect Program, part of Zero to Five Montana, helps support the start, and expansion, of high-quality, early child care businesses in Montana, and they just unveiled their new online resource hub for all stakeholders in the child care industry.
"We think this is really important to employers and to business leaders all across the state, as well as folks in any capacity in the community who are looking for solutions to address child care," said Caitlin Jensen, Zero to Five's Executive Director.
Zero to Five Montana is a statewide, nonprofit, organization dedicated to supporting the success of child care providers, early childhood educators, families, and policymakers in Montana.
It is a real challenge facing families and the state.
"About 68,000 Montana families are not able to fully participate in the Montana workforce because of the lack of child care in our state. So we think this is a really important tool, one of many tools that we hope will continue to build and exist that will help to be that one-stop shop," said Jensen.
In fact, a 2021 report by the Department of Public Health and Human Services found a big gap between child care supply and demand.
Including that 34 of Montana's 56 counties, or 60%, were considered child care deserts. A child care desert is any area where more than two-thirds of children living in a working family household cannot access licensed child care.
"Child care continues to be one of the issues that is so impactful to so many Montana families and to employers, and we know that it has a huge impact on our local and our statewide economy," said Jensen.
The new website is designed to cater to child care providers, early childhood educators, families, community members, and anyone who is considering entering or expanding child care opportunities.
"We think it's really important to have this as an outlet for anyone, whether you are in the community, or an employer, or you're somebody who wants to start a child care business. We've set up this website to be very responsive to what we've heard from each of those different groups," said Jensen.
The website allows users to explore, business support, professional development, and community capacity growth tools. So it can help inform all interested parties with child care.
"We're so proud that it is truly informed by so many different community partners that we've had the honor to be able to work with over the course of the last year, as well as different resources and connections and organizations all across the state, everything from chambers to economic development to even national resources through organizations like First Children's Finance," said Jensen.
For more information, or if you want to check out Zero to Five's new website,Montana Child Care Business Connect, click here.