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Parents say lack of childcare is hampering Big Timber's growth

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Posted at 4:18 PM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 18:19:06-04

BIG TIMBER — Big Timber Daycare is the only daycare in all of Sweet Grass County, and community members agree that's not enough childcare service for the growing rural community.

Dulcie Bue-Clavarino, a Big Timber mother of three, counts herself lucky as two of her kids attend Big Timber Daycare.

“I do know that by the time I had my youngest, Stacey was one of the first people that I told just because I knew that I had to get on a waiting list,” said Bue-Clavarino at Big Timber Daycare Tuesday.

She wasn't surprised to find out that meant a nearly year-long wait, but she didn't have many options.

“It would be between quitting my job or finding somewhere, work from home or something like that. Or move to a different place where there is childcare,” Bue-Clavarino added.

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Dulcie Bue-Clavarino and her son

She's not alone. Big Timber mother of five, Jessica Isaacs, also juggles a full-time job.

“If we didn’t have them here, I wouldn’t be able to work, which benefits my family and me personally, which makes me a better mom,” Isaacs said.

“As soon as we opened, we’ve pretty much been trying to meet the need of this community,” said the owner of Big Timber Daycare, Stacey Smith.

Smith opened the daycare in 2018 and has had her hands full ever since. When summer comes, she'll be serving around 90 families in the area.

“There’s that pressure that I feel constantly that this business needs this person to go to work and they need childcare for their kids. So how can we do that?” Smith said.

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Jessica Isaacs and her daughter.

That means expanding, but that's a challenge within itself as Big Timber lacks large commercial space for childcare, so she's running her business from houses she rents in town.

“We had to relocate one of our classrooms to another campus completely, which means we have double overhead now, and that is how our business is currently functioning in two different spots,” added Smith.

It's a solution that isn't cheap.

“When we first opened it was $1,000 to have insurance for our group child care, and now that we’re a center with three locations, it’s $9,000 for that same year,” said Smith.

It's why Smith and her family flew to Washington, D.C., last week as Montana representatives of Zero to Three's Strolling Thunder event. Zero to Three is a national organization that focuses on child development and brings families to Congress once a year to speak to their representatives.

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Stacey Smith, owner of Big Timber Daycare

Smith met with Montana U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, and the office of U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale.

“We just had a candid conservation with them about the huge need of childcare in our rural communities and really trying to discuss ways we can make it better,” added Smith.

There aren't any solutions yet but all three moms hope to get more eyes and ears on an issue that affects their way of life.

“It helps everybody in the community, not just the children, not just the parents of those children. We’re helping build healthy children,” said Isaacs.

“It’s detrimental if you don’t have childcare in a town this size. It makes it so people won’t move here for jobs. It makes it so people can’t survive here and it’s not realistic to expect them to,” Bue-Clavarino said.