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Missoula Boys & Girls Club offers child care for essential workers

Missoula Boys & Girls Club offers child care for essential workers

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AmeriCorps member Eilish Brennan watches 4-year-old Emry Cooksley color during the opening reception when the Boys & Girls Club of Missoula County opened a clubhouse in 2018.

The Boys & Girls Club of Missoula County is offering a new emergency child care program starting Tuesday for families whose members work in essential businesses and operations and must keep working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program will serve children ages 5 to 12, for families working in the essential services outlined in Gov. Steve Bullock's shelter-in-place order that went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

"We're just trying to be there, especially for those folks that have those really demanding non-flexible work schedules," said Katie Moore, the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Missoula County.

"The least we can do is provide their kids with a safe place where they can get their schoolwork done, and just to be in some normalcy through this uncertain time."

The emergency child care program hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of Missoula County is currently accepting applications for children who do not attend Missoula County Public Schools. Families within the MCPS district are being directed to the emergency child care program hosted in partnership with the Missoula YMCA. Moore said the organizations are working closely to ensure they do not duplicate efforts and are also sharing best practices.

The Boys & Girls Club of Missoula County closed last week after wrapping up its spring break program. Since the closure, Moore said staff have been checking in on their club member families to see what kinds of support they need and connecting them to other resources.

The emergency child care program was developed as the result of Missoula's emergency child care task force, which was formed earlier this month to increase the availability of child care for school-age children after public schools closed as a way to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, and a number of child care providers followed

"Zero to 5 child care exists already but that didn't exist for school-age kids during the school day because normally kids are in school," said Grace Decker, who is heading the emergency child care task force.

The Boys & Girls Club program will be open 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and will be located at the City Life Community Center. It has been certified by the Missoula City-County Health Department as an emergency child care facility.

Moore said there are 24 spots, and only six children currently enrolled. If they hit enrollment capacity, priority will be given to three critical occupation areas — health care, first responders and city-county government employees, Moore said.

The program costs $169 per week. Financial assistance and scholarships are available to families on a case-by-case basis, Moore said.

Families can register for different days each week to accommodate various work schedules. Registration can be completed at www.bgcmissoula.org. Questions can be directed to program manager John Waters at john@bgcmissoulacounty.org.

Moore said they anticipate that this week will be slow. However, she said they want to get started now so everything is running smoothly for an anticipated increase in demand in the next two to three weeks.

Decker said the task force has been working with local health care providers who predict that they will have to ramp up staffing in anywhere from a week to a month.

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