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Lauren Johnson

Week of the Young Child in Montana: Celebrating Our Little Ones

By Early Childhood

From April 8th to April 12th, organizations across the state of Montana are gearing up to celebrate the Week of the Young Child (WOYC), a special time dedicated to honoring and recognizing the early years of childhood. This annual event is a nationwide initiative by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and is spearheaded at a state level by the Montana Association for the Education of Young Children (MTAEYC).

The Week of the Young Child is a dedicated time to raise awareness about the crucial significance of early childhood education and development. Communities unite during this week to honor children and the devoted professionals who nurture their growth and learning. Throughout Montana, the Week of the Young Child is commemorated with an abundance of events and activities tailored to engage children, families, educators, and community members alike. From interactive workshops and storytelling sessions to outdoor adventures and family picnics, the week offers a diverse range of opportunities for learning, exploration, and enjoyment.  Themed days include Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Artsy Thursday, and Family Friday.

 

Here are examples of fun and exciting activities across Montana:

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You can check out the comprehensive list of WOYC events on the Montana Association for the Education of Young Children (MTAEYC) website here.

If you’re interested in hosting your own WOYC event, you can find more information from the NAEYC website here.

By celebrating the Week of the Young Child, Montana reaffirms its commitment to investing in the well-being and future of its youngest citizens. So let’s come together, celebrate our little ones, and build a brighter future for all!    
A parent and child sit amidst packed boxes, representing the struggles of eviction.

Facing Eviction: The Critical Impact on Children Under 5 in Montana and Across the Nation

By advocacy, Caregiving, Community, Eviction, Housing, Parenting, Perinatal Substance Use Disorders
Today on the HMHB blog, we’re sharing crucial new insights about eviction in Montana, graciously communicated by our colleagues at the Montana Legal Services Association. Michelle Potts, Director of Strategic Focus and Development, has provided us with invaluable information regarding the impact of eviction. Read more about this pressing issue and its implications.

 

From Michelle Potts, Director of Strategic Focus and Development at Montana Legal Services Association:

Howdy! I know you all work so very hard to make our communities a better place, and thought you might find local Montana data to be of help in your work. We recently published two new Montana reports: Beyond Housing Affordability assesses the data of 65 client households who faced eviction in both rural and urban areas of Montana, while A Sample of Personal Narratives allows the clients to tell about the impact in their lived experience.

Unfortunately, our Montana study confirms a new study from the Eviction Lab, which shows that children under age 5 make up the largest group facing eviction nationwide. Hopefully this data will help you make the case for the support you need for your work.

Key takeaways from our Montana report include:

  • 48% of households facing eviction had at least one child
  • Over half of the respondents spent more than 10% of their annual income on the cost of the eviction itself – a huge burden for families already struggling to meet basic expenses.
  • 100% experienced increased expenses before the eviction, including medical emergencies, added childcare expenses, domestic violence/divorce, or added elderly dependents.
  • Respondents reported additional up-stream social breakdowns: 17% had a death in the family; 18% had violence or abuse in the household; 12% had alcohol abuse in the household; 14% had a divorce or separation; and 69% had a mental illness in the household. For households with children, these events are considered Adverse Childhood Experiences, which are linked to chronic health problems and mental illness in adolescence and adulthood. At least 5 of the top 10 leading causes of death are associated with ACEs.
  • 31% of respondents were in unstable and at-risk housing after the eviction process, including 26% of households with children. 18% were homeless as a result of the eviction.

The report includes interviews and direct quotes from Montanans facing eviction, including:

  • When asked what factors led to the eviction, one respondent replied that the “landlord doubled the rent with 10 days’ notice from $1,200 to $2,400.”
  • Survey respondents described the impact of facing an eviction on their families: “One of my children dropped out of school afterwards and did not finish high school” and “I attempted suicide 6 months after I moved.”
  • “It took all the funds I had for the storage units I had to rent and the U-Haul, plus I lost my food stamps because I had no rent but had to pay cash if I stayed anywhere.”
  • “The only reason we had a child was because we thought our rental situation was going to be long-term, and now, the only “home” my child has known is a hotel room.”
Thank you to the team Montana Legal Services Association for allowing us to share this information.  To reiterate what Michelle eloquently stated, “Hopefully this data will help you make the case for the support you need for your work.”

The Importance of Community in the Years of Early Childhood

By Community, Parenting

This story features HMHB staffer Lauren Johnson’s experience with a LIFTS resource guide partner in her community.

My daughter recently turned six. This year, she started kindergarten, riding the bus, doing math, and reading. She has an established group of friends, and I know many of their parents. We can call each other when we need help with rides to activities or want to schedule playdates so other parents can go grocery shopping or clean the house.

But that wasn’t always the case.

My daughter turned two in early March of 2020, just as COVID quarantine was beginning. She was on the cusp of starting playdates, and we were about to lean more into relationships with other parents, but the pandemic put a pause on that. She was in childcare, and it became so complicated. My husband and I couldn’t go inside her facility, and we rarely connected with other parents and teachers. We turned more and more inward, didn’t ask for help, and didn’t seek connection with other families and resources. We felt lost.

We needed community.

When The Village Playspace opened in our community in 2021, some of the vacuum for connection was filled for us. It offered a safe and healthy place where parents could gather, children could play, and relationships could flourish. I crossed paths again with some of the moms from our “mom and me” yoga classes from infancy and had a chance to reconnect. Suddenly, we weren’t alone in our struggles and joys of parenthood. We found solace in sharing stories, tips, and commiserating over the challenges. It helped us begin confidently building relationships with other families.

Our community grew.

We gradually began seeing more families that we knew from our childcare center and started scheduling playdates. We found a sense of belonging, support, and camaraderie that we had been missing. We got other parents’ phone numbers, started having birthday parties together, and our connections grew.

The zero to five years are a blend of special moments, challenges, and rapid growth, and the importance of community during these formative years cannot be overstated. It’s not just about having someone to call for a favor or a playdate; it’s about knowing that you’re not alone. It’s about finding comfort in the shared experiences of others and knowing that there are people who understand what you’re going through.

A child swinging on a swing set, their hair flying in the air, while others watch and cheer at The Village Playspace.

Find your Village.

As my daughter has now turned six, we find ourselves gradually outgrowing The Village Playspace. While our visits may be less frequent, the connections we forged there remain invaluable. We are growing into other spaces for connection and have built a supportive community that will continue to guide us through the years ahead. For that sense of community and connection, we will always be grateful, and I hope every parent of children in the early childhood years is able to find their village.

Are you curious if your Montana community has a place like The Village? Check out our LIFTS Resource Guide and search “Play Spaces.”