Monthly Archives

June 2024

LIFTS: A Comprehensive Resource for Montana Families

By Caregiving, Community Support, Parenting

Today on the blog, we spotlight LIFTS, a well-known initiative among those familiar with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies – The Montana Coalition. Our goal is to equip our partners to become LIFTS ambassadors, providing them with the tools they need to spread the word to those who may not yet be aware of this helpful resource. We hope this post can be shared with those who can benefit from LIFTS to help achieve that!

What is LIFTS?

Launched in October 2021, the LIFTS online resource guide provides Montanans with a vital tool to connect with local service providers for pregnant people and parents and families of children aged zero to three. It offers a searchable database of local supports that families can easily access. LIFTS also includes a warmline where parents can anonymously ask questions about finding support, and a magazine featuring stories about how Montana parents and caregivers successfully found help and overcame challenges.

LIFTS stands for:

  • Linking
  • Infants and
  • Families
  • To
  • Supports.

Who is LIFTS for?

LIFTS is for Montana pregnant people, parents, caregivers, and providers for young children aged zero to three. LIFS includes a comprehensive range of services and parents can access LIFTS for information on services ranging from lactation support to mental health providers to public libraries. For busy parents, it serves as a trusted guide to find help in Montana when other information sources are overwhelming or unorganized.  It is mobile-friendly, making it even easier for parents to use at any time.

Providers supporting Montana parents and young children, such as home visitors, nurses, and care coordinators, can also use LIFTS to find trusted supports in communities across the state. It serves as a reliable resource for professionals and parents alike.

LIFTS is Local

Although LIFTS is a statewide resource, it was designed with local Montana community coalitions and early childhood experts to ensure the shared resources are trusted and locally endorsed. LIFTS is customizable to local counties and Reservations, allowing families across the state to access the support they need in their local communities when it’s available.

Features of LIFTS

  • Searchable Database: Easily find local services in local counties and Reservations.
  • Events: Discover family-friendly, substance-free local events.
  • Submit a Service/Event: Providers and community members can add services and events to the database, ensuring it remains current and comprehensive.
  • Warmline: If you need help finding specific information or resources, LIFTS offers an anonymous warmline you can call at 406-490-9100. Available from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, this service connects you with someone who can help.
  • LIFTS Magazine: The magazine features real stories about parenthood in Montana and experiences of when accessing help helped. These narratives aim to foster connection and let parents know they aren’t alone if they are struggling. The magazine also highlights resources and support systems available across the state.

Empowering Parents and Caregivers

LIFTS is more than just a resource guide; it’s a tool to help families feel empowered and supported.  Parents aren’t meant to do this alone and Montana is full of support for pregnant people and those caring for young children. By providing easy access to quality information and resources, LIFTS aims to make the journey of parenthood and the process of supporting parents and caregivers of Montana children aged zero to three a little easier.

Early Head Start: My Family’s Experience by Kayla Goble

By Caregiving, Community, Early Childhood, Maternal Mental Health, Parenting

This is a featured article from our 2nd edition of the LIFTS Magazine.  

Early Head Start: My Family’s Experience

By Kayla Goble

Parenting is hard no matter how prepared you feel you are for it. I have always wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember, but becoming a mom was not going to be an easy journey for me. Before I got pregnant with “Bugs” (my nickname for my daughter) in 2019, I had some health issues and I was not sure that my dream of becoming a mom would ever become a reality. I knew that there are other ways to become a mom, and I have two amazing “bonus children” that I love dearly. Throughout my pregnancy with Bugs, I lived in constant fear that I would lose her, as we did not have an easy ride. I was diagnosed with several medical conditions requiring medication, and I struggled to carry her to full term. Ultimately, she made her appearance at 36 weeks and 6 days, at 5:30 a.m.

Once Bugs was born, I knew that I needed to have support and a village around my family in order to help Bugs be the best that she can be. As someone who is going to school for Early Childhood Education (P-3) and Special Education, I know that it is important to provide gentle parenting and to guide children in life, and to help them have a healthy attachment so that they feel safe and secure to explore the world around them. When Bugs was three months old, we moved from Missoula to Anaconda, meaning that my family and main support was an hour and a half away. Two months after we moved to Anaconda, COVID hit, meaning that we did not have time to build a support system there.

In March 2021, there was a fire in our building and we had to suddenly move again. We moved to Butte, where some of our friends lived and we would be able to find more services to support Bugs.

By the time that we moved, Bugs had been diagnosed with some conditions requiring  many doctor appointments and hospital stays. Anaconda does not have an Early Head Start (EHS) program, so when we moved to Butte, we started looking at the process of getting her enrolled in AWARE’s EHS program. AWARE runs EHS programs in Butte, Helena, Belgrade and Billings, while other communities provide EHS through different organizations.

In June of 2021, we worked with Family Outreach to have Bugs tested for delays and to see if she qualified for an IFSP (Individualized Family Support Plan). The results came back that Bugs was 25-90% delayed in all developmental areas except one, where she was 10% delayed. This showed that, while Bugs was advanced in many of the skills she had at a year and a half, she had missed some of the key skills that she would need to be successful in life. She also was showing some concerning behaviors when she became overstimulated or was in social situations. When we enrolled her into EHS in Butte, I was not sure how it would go and worried that Bugs would struggle and not succeed.

For the first three weeks that Bugs was at EHS, she did not talk there, while she talked all the time at home. All of the other kids wanted to take care of her and would get her whatever she wanted if she pointed at something. Over time she came out of her shell and showed her feisty, independent attitude. Now, she loves going to “school.”

Each time we have had Bugs make a transition – first to another EHS classroom and then to Young Explorers, which is an EHS Community Partner – I thought that Bugs would regress and that she would not be able to handle it. Each time it has been the best move for her. All staff have been supportive of figuring out and dealing with her medical issues. When the doctor decided on two occasions that she needed to change her diet, EHS made each change within 24 hours. Nine months after she enrolled at EHS, she was retested and her development scores had increased dramatically.

Not only is Bugs supported, so are we as her family. Some people might think that EHS is just for the child, but it’s about all of us. We have a team of 14 people who all help support Bugs, but also check in with us about our family’s sleep schedule, my relationship with my husband, and other aspects of our lives. There is a therapist on staff that helps us deal with things that come up, such as Bugs shredding paper. There is also a Family Advocate that works with us on various issues.

As a parent, I have been empowered to join the Policy Council, which Head Start and Early Head Start are required to have. Policy Council is made up of parent and community representatives from each of the cities that AWARE EHS serves. We meet once a month and act as a “check and balance” for AWARE EHS. We go over the budget and things that are happening in the centers. As parents, we discuss ways to improve things or make changes. The parents that are on Policy Council also help organize parent committee meetings every month, which help parents connect and learn new information to help them be the best parents that they can be. I am glad that I chose to trust someone to help and support me with raising my daughter and would not change that decision for anything.

Resources: Learn more about what AWARE can offer you and your child at Or find out if there is an Early Head Start program in your community offered by a different organization listed in the LIFTS online resource guide.

Summer Fun Ideas for Caregivers of Young Children in Montana

By Caregiving, Community, Community Support, Parenting

Summertime in Montana can be paradise! It can also be a time when many families experience changes in childcare routines and find themselves scrambling to find balance. Keeping in mind that summer isn’t a break for parents and caregivers of young children, we wanted to share some ideas to make the most of the summer months while ensuring a safe, fun, and engaging experience for your little ones.

Utilize Public Libraries

Public libraries are an excellent resource during the summer. Many libraries in Montana offer free programs specifically designed for babies and toddlers. From story time to music and movement classes, these programs provide a structured, yet fun environment for early childhood development. Check out the LIFTS online resource guide for public libraries to find a library near you and learn about their summer reading programs and other activities.

Explore a New Play Space

There are many parks and play areas across the state that are perfect for young children. Before heading out, check the LIFTS online resource guide for play spaces. Visiting different parks not only keeps the scenery fresh but also helps kiddos develop social skills as they interact with other children.

Addressing Food Insecurity

Summertime can be particularly challenging for families facing food insecurity. It’s important to know that resources are available to help. The LIFTS online resource guide under food and nutrition supports can connect you with local partners and organizations that provide food assistance. Support is available to ensure that no child experiences hunger during the summer.

Organize Rotating Play Dates

Consider organizing a rotating play date schedule with other parents and caregivers. This not only gives children the opportunity to play with friends but also allows you some much-needed time to work, run errands, or simply take a break. Rotating responsibilities among a responsible and supportive group of adults helps create a community where everyone benefits.

Have a Picnic

Take advantage of Montana’s natural beauty by having a family picnic. Whether it’s in your backyard, at a local park, or by a scenic lake, picnics are a delightful way to spend time together. Pack a simple meal, bring a blanket, look at the shapes in the clouds, and enjoy the fresh air while your little one explores the outdoors.

Enjoy Free and Simple Activities

You don’t need expensive toys to keep your child entertained. Some of the best summer activities are free and can be done right at home. A few easy favorites include:

  • Make your own water table. Fill a plastic bowl with safe kitchen utensils for water play – it’s amazing how much fun toddlers can have with a little water and some simple tools.
  • Play “washing up.” Give your child a spray bottle with water and let them “clean” their toys or outdoor furniture. It’s a great way to keep them occupied and cool on a hot day.
  • Make and play with bubbles! If you’re out of store-bought bubbles, an easy recipe you can make at home simply requires you to mix three ingredients: 2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 cup hot water, 1 cup room temperature water, and 1/2 cup liquid dish soap.

Visit Montana State Parks

Many Montanans opt to pay the $9 fee when licensing their vehicles, which grants access to all Montana State Parks. There are many parks across the state, offering a range of activities such as hiking, picnicking, and exploring nature trails. The parks are not only beautiful but also provide a rich learning environment for young children.

Additional Tips

  • Dress in Layers: Montanans know that if you don’t like the weather now, wait 15 minutes because it will probably change! Make sure to pack appropriate layers for any outdoor adventures.
  • Be Bear (and all animal!) Aware: We have the good fortune of an abundance of wildlife in Montana – in both urban and wilderness settings. Don’t forget to be “bear aware” and conscientious of all wild animals.
  • Stay Safe: Always apply sunscreen, dress your child in appropriate clothing, and ensure they stay hydrated.
  • Be Prepared: Carry a bag with essentials like snacks, water, diapers, and a change of clothes.
  • Capture Memories: Don’t forget to take pictures and videos to capture these precious moments.
Let us know if you have any easy and engaging ideas to share!

Enhancing Community Care: Vetted Guides for Effective Referrals in Perinatal Mental Health

By advocacy, Caregiving, Community, Community Support, Maternal Mental Health, Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Montana has far reaching support systems for families during pregnancy and early childhood. Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) works hand-in-hand with these networks and local groups, striving to gather and share the knowledge and skills necessary to serve families during these crucial stages of life. A frequent challenge we hear about is the difficulty in referring patients and clients to appropriate resources.

Communities can address this challenge by creating community specific vetted guides to help parents, caregivers, and providers find the assistance they need promptly. To support these efforts, HMHB and partners developed a toolkit to help community groups build an effective directory of perinatal mental health and support specialists.

vetted resource guideCollaborating for Comprehensive Support

HMHB collaborated with the Maternal Mental Health Taskforce of the Helena Early Childhood Coalition and the Flathead Perinatal Mental Health Coalition of the Flathead Valley Early Childhood Coalition to create this valuable resource. This toolkit is tailored to help community groups create, organize, and maintain an up-to-date list of local resources, ensuring that

families receive the best possible care.

The team at the Early Childhood Coalition of Flathead Valley recently went through the process of creating a new vetted guide.  You can see that work here.

What’s Inside the Vetted Guide Toolkit?

The toolkit contains resources and templates to simplify the process of building a community-specific referral list. Here’s what you’ll find inside:

  • Points of Consideration: Guidance on the language to use and categories to include in your resource list.
  • Criteria for Vetted Guides: Examples of criteria that can be adopted to create a reliable and vetted guide for your community.
  • Content for Outreach: Pre-made content to populate an online form for outreach and recruitment efforts.
  • Inspiration from Existing Resources: A compilation of other referral lists to inspire and guide your efforts.
  • Designed Templates: Ready-to-use templates to streamline the process of creating your resource list.

Empowering Communities Through Collaboration

By leveraging this toolkit, community groups can enhance their system of care and referrals, making it easier for families to access the support they need during pregnancy and early childhood. Our collaboration with local coalitions underscores the importance of working together to create robust, effective support networks.

If you’re in a community that hasn’t yet built a vetted resource guide, don’t forget to refer to the LIFTS Online Resource Guide for a comprehensive statewide list of service providers.

Let’s work together to build stronger, more supportive communities for all Montana families.