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A day without childcare: Missoula rally advocates for state childcare funding

Childcare providers, parents and legislators gathered in Missoula to advocate for continued state and federal funding for childcare
Posted at 8:22 AM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 10:22:06-04

MISSOULA — For many young Montana families, childcare is a necessity, but a local rally called on legislators to think about the consequences of a day without childcare.

Childcare providers, parents and legislators gathered at the Missoula County Courthouse on Monday to advocate for continued state and federal funding for childcare.

BriAnne Moline is the owner of Wild Wonders Early Learning Program, a home-based childcare center in Missoula. She’s worked in the childcare business for 13 years, has her bachelor’s degree in childhood learning and co-founded the Montana Family Childcare Network — an organization that trains new providers.

Moline organized the “Day for Early Childcare Education Rally” as a way to bring different representatives of the childcare industry together. The rally is part of a national movement, “Day Without Childcare,” which aims to show elected leaders and business owners the consequences of the lack of childcare in a community.

At the rally, Moline spoke about her own experience as a provider and her struggles to make a living for herself and her four children.

“I’m living in poverty,” she said. “It’s not right. It is not right that the people that are caring for our youngest members, who are going to grow up and be the next generation of leaders, it is not okay for us to be struggling this hard.”

Many childcare centers struggle with the balance of paying their workers a livable wage but not increasing rates on families.

According to the State of Montana’s Child Care Gap Assessment in 2022, there were 2,311 children who needed childcare but were unable to access it.

MT Sen. Shannon O’Brien D-46 spoke at the rally. O’Brien was a high school teacher who now advocates for legislation that supports childcare.

During the last legislative session, O’Brien carried a bill that allocated funds to support the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship, a program that helps families afford childcare.

“People are not going back to work because they can't find childcare, and if they can find it, they can't afford it, so people aren't going back to work, and it's affecting our businesses and our businesses are all of a sudden saying, ‘hey, help’,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien encourages Montanans to continue to advocate for a better childcare system. She said many legislators can learn from the experiences of those at the rally.

“Most of the legislators are very well intended, I think, but they are out of touch of what's really going on with Montanans,” O’Brien said. “Very few legislators still have children at home or young children at home.”

Nicholle Muchmore’s daughter was a child at Moline’s at-home childcare for many years.

Moline’s rates are higher than some home-based providers, but Moline is a licensed, educator provider. Muchmore’s daughter has autism, so she needed the extra support that Moline could provide.

“We were eligible for the Best Beginnings program thankfully, or we would never have been able to afford it,” she said at Monday’s rally. “Bella is autistic and she's ADHD, and so she has challenges that Bri was able to meet, and we appreciated that.”

Despite Muchmore’s difficulty in affording her daughter’s childcare, she attended the rally to support providers.

 “She works hard and so do other childcare workers in the state,” Muchmore said. “They all deserve to make a decent wage. Not just $15 an hour– you make $15 an hour at McDonald’s these days. I hope that we can push and push and push and get better wages for childcare workers across the state.”