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Nurturing Center remains a vital child-care resource during pandemic
The Daily Inter Lake - 2/12/2021
Feb. 12—As families and providers wait to see what will happen with child-care funding in President Joe Biden's proposed coronavirus relief plan, The Nurturing Center is available to help at its new location, 322 Second Ave. W. in Kalispell.
The Nurturing Center moved to its new location in May after selling its former building at 146 Third Ave. W. Executive Director Kalie Adoretti said the decision to sell the historic early 1900s home was very difficult, but the nonprofit outgrew the space.
Although the physical building remains closed to walk-in traffic due to the pandemic, the center continues to provide all services by phone, appointment or virtually.
The Nurturing Center, which was founded in 1978, is a name community residents might be familiar with, but aren't sure what services they provide.
"Everything early childhood is what we do," said Rachel Just, outreach and communication specialist.
Just said The Nurturing Center's goal is to be the first stop for parents and child-care providers with any early childhood-related issues. The Nurturing Center is contracted by the state as a Montana Child Care Resource and Referral agency and is part of a network covering seven regions. The Nurturing Center oversees a region of the state that covers Flathead, Lake, Lincoln and Sanders counties.
THE CENTER is a resource for families: financial assistance to help cover child-care costs; referrals to licensed child-care providers; essential baby-care supplies; and parent education classes, support and training. Roughly six months ago, the center also became a referral source for Montana Legal Services Association to assist low-income parents who need legal assistance. For providers, the agency offers professional development and training opportunities and assistance with getting licensed or registered.
"Even if we don't do the service, we offer referrals to agencies that do," Just said, such as getting connected to agencies that help with housing assistance, for example.
Adoretti said the center can arrange consultations with families to help them navigate what community resources are available to meet their needs.
"I think it's just really connecting with the families and figuring out what their needs are, and then, how do we support helping them meet those needs whether it's online research or connecting them to a different agency in the community — or if they need basic supplies like diapers, wipes and formula — we can do that," Adoretti said.
The main program the agency facilitates is the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship for families, an income-based program that provides financial assistance to low-income families whose children receive care from licensed providers while they "work, attend high school, or participate in Montana's Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF)," according to https://nurturingcenter.org.
Adoretti said up to 360 scholarships are awarded on a monthly basis, which shows a need for affordable care.
For child-care providers, the center sponsors the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, which gives funding to qualified providers to serve children nutritious meals and snacks.
The center also facilitates the Best Beginnings STARS to Quality program for providers interested in offering a quality early childhood education.
One of the daily questions The Nurturing Center gets is what child-care providers are available.
"So, we'll get a call from somebody who says 'I've got a 4-year-old and I need to find child care for three days a week.' We have a referral system process where we can get all their information, plug it in and see what child-care providers offer those types of services," Adoretti said. "Then, they just have to reach out to them and see if they have openings."
The Nurturing Center maintains a database of state-licensed child care providers in the four counties. Currently, that number stands at 112. Adoretti said eight providers have closed down in the past year, with five of the closures directly due to the pandemic. However, she said there has been interest from the community to open new licensed facilities.
OPERATING IN a pandemic has been a learning experience.
"What we thought we couldn't do remotely, we can. That has been the biggest change for us," Adoretti said.
While staff are excited to open the doors of their new facility to the public when it is safe to do so, there has been a positive side to conducting virtual meetings and training sessions, especially for people in outlying communities.
"We don't have to drive all over the state for meetings," Adoretti said. "We don't have to have people come from Eureka to come and do training."
"There's pros and cons to that," she said. "You miss that human interaction and human contact, but we are realizing you can do it virtually and make it work."
For more information visit nurturingcenter.org or call 406-756-1414.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 406-758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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