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What some in Broadwater County are doing to address lack of childcare

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Posted at 5:34 PM, Jan 26, 2024

HELENA — A brand new childcare facility in Broadwater County is helping to alleviate the pressures some parents face when it comes to finding child care while they’re at work.

In 2019 Amanda Hazlett saw an opportunity to provide a service to a community in desperate need of child care. She opened up Pathfinder Preschool and Childcare in downtown Townsend to take care of infants and toddlers. While the new facility helped, it nowhere near took care of the issue in the childcare desert of Broadwater County.

According to a new report from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, nearly two-thirds of Montana counties are considered child care deserts, meaning that available childcare meets less than a third of potential demand. Broadwater County, for example, only meets 18% of potential demand.

“Without a great place for their kids to go and feel safe and nurtured and enriched, they would have to stay home with them and provide those things. So, we are passionate about providing that environment for the kids of our county,” says Hazlett.

During this first month of the new year, Hazlett opened up her second daycare facility, The Preschool on Broadway, in downtown Townsend serving children ages 3-5. Currently, they’re at about half the capacity of the full 20 spots available and are still taking applicants.

Broadwater County and the hub of Townsend have only become more popular and more crowded over the past handful of years. Many parents are left without easy access to childcare thus putting strain on families and the workforce.

The Broadwater Community Development Corporation took a look at and created committees for the top pressing issues facing the community, which include housing, child care, aging gracefully, multi-use community center, trails, and broadband. Allison Kosto, County Extension Agent for MSU, is part of a committee working to find solutions to the issue of child care.

“Amanda opening her childcare has made a big difference. We still recognize there's a need,” says Kosto.

A recent family survey asked Broadwater County residents about some of the community’s child care use and needs. The majority of respondents ranked the availability of childcare in Broadwater County as poor or very poor.

While the committee is working on solutions, Hazlett says that this new preschool is not a direct result of that working group.

“We are a service to the community but we're not a nonprofit so we can't accept a lot of help from other nonprofits because they can't give to for profit entities," says Hazlett.

Kosto recognizes the conflict between the necessary service of child care and the rules and regulations governing non-profits and is searching for options to work through these issues.

“People wanted to help her. It's not, I don't think that they didn't want. It's just sometimes the nonprofits' hands are tied on who they can give money to and how they can do that. And so, it's hard to balance that. And I think what some communities have done to help bridge that, you know, is form like a childcare nonprofit and have the, so they have that capacity to do that and be able to receive grants,” says Kosto.

On February 8 the committee will share the full results of their recent survey and form an action plan for the future.