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Montana Early Childhood System


Montana’s Early Childhood System


The Department of Public Health and Human Services is pleased to announce the launch of a new grant funded project:

Strengthening Montana’s Early Childhood System (PDG B-5)


Administrative Program Support

DPHHS has been working to get all the resources in place needed to do the work of the project.  We are very excited to announce the hiring of the Grant Coordinator, Sandy Cade; and the Family Engagement/Coaching Coordinator, Brandi Loch. 

• Sandy Cade comes to the project having worked in the Early Childhood field for 26 years. After graduating from Texas Tech University with a BA in Human Development /Family Studies with an emphasis on Early Childhood she began her career as a preschool teacher. After moving to Montana in 1995, she continued to work in the early childhood field with Head Start for 12 years and most recently a Regional Specialist with the Montana Preschool Development Grant.

• Brandi Loch joins the project having spent the past four years working as a Regional Specialist with the Montana Preschool Development Grant. Prior to this, Brandi worked in the early childhood and child welfare fields for 13 years. Brandi holds a degree in Master of Organizational Management and Leadership and a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education.

Contact Information:

Sandy Cade, (406) 560-1923

Brandi Loch, (406) 560-7613

For more information contact: 

Sally Tilleman, (406) 444-2789

View Montana's submitted application


Live Accordion

Learn About Strengthening Montana's Early Childhood System

We are excited to announce that Montana was awarded a $4.2 million Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) from the US Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF). This funding was made available under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and is targeted to help states build a quality early learning system for children birth to 5 and their families.

Project Overview

The Strengthening Montana’s Early Childhood System Project is focused on developing the state’s comprehensive early childhood system to support early learning and development, health, and family support and engagement. The project will promote access to high-quality early childhood care and education (ECE) for infants, toddlers, and preschool age children in a mixed-delivery system to support the state’s vision that children achieve their highest potential in school and in life. The target populations are underserved children, families, and geographic regions, and the early childhood providers and supporting system.
Grant activities are focused on improving early childhood system functions of: defining and coordinating leadership and governance; financing strategically; enhancing and aligning standards; creating and supporting improvement strategies; ensuring accountability; and recruiting and engaging stakeholders to work in a cohesive, effective, and efficient manner. Work includes improving the early childhood system’s approach to:

  • Family engagement and partnership
  • Early childhood care and education provider professional development
  • Overall quality and access of ECE programs, providers, and services.
Project Overview

Focus Groups and Informational Meetings

We are in the process of scheduling and conducting focus groups in 13 locations statewide.

Upcoming Meetings and Events:

The communities we will be visiting are:

  • Anaconda/Butte, Arlee, Billings, Box Elder, Bozeman, Browning, Crow Agency, Great Falls, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, Miles City, Missoula, Polson, St. Ignatius. 
  • You should be seeing outreach materials for the focus groups soon, if you haven’t already.
  • Focus groups are scheduled to finish in Early April.

Currently researchers from Bloom Consulting are also analyzing data and conducting interviews with state early childhood program administrators to gain state level systems perspective.

Past Meetings:

January 24, 2019: Grant Kick Off Meeting

Project Overview

Grant Kick Off Presentation

January 24, 2019 Project Kick Off Minutes

Needs Assessment Survey

Montana is conducting a comprehensive statewide needs assessment of the state’s early childhood system, which incorporates early learning and development, health, and family support.  The goal of the assessment is to understand the strengths and gaps of the system, not just individual components/programs, and define ways to improve it to better serve children and families and better support providers.  We are asking you to complete a survey to support the assessment.  

We want to hear from:

  • Families and caregivers:
    • We are interested in learning from families who have: used or wanted to use any type of child care or preschool; transitioned a child into kindergarten; accessed early intervention services; accessed any type of health services for their children; used family support services including home visiting or child welfare. We want to hear from parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster families, and every other type of caretaker.
  • Providers and administrators:
    • We are asking for participation from providers or program administrators who work with children or families in all sectors of the early childhood system - learning and development, health/behavioral health, and family support.
  • Survey Link
    • Please complete the survey by March 29th

Grant Activities

Strengthening Montana’s Early Childhood System Project is committed to the following approaches in the five activity areas:

Activity 1. Statewide Birth - 5 Needs Assessment
Activity 2. Statewide Birth - 5 Strategic Plan
Activity 3. Maximizing Parent Knowledge and Choice
Activity 4. Sharing Best Practices with Early Learning Providers
Activity 5. Improving Overall Quality of Early Learning Services

Needs Assessment Approach

  • Literature review, best practices research (Montana and national, including review of existing needs assessments)
  • Extant/administrative data
  • Surveys
  • Key stakeholder interviews
  • Community forums and focus groups
  • Reliance on Early Childhood Coalition and Best Beginnings Advisory Council to support data collection processes
  • Analysis and reporting

Strategic Plan Approach

  • Review existing plans
  • Conduct regional and statewide workshops (review needs assessment findings, prioritize, define early childhood system priorities (goals, objectives, and strategies)
  • Create draft strategic plan for BBAC and local coalition review and input
  • Develop implementation plan
  • Develop evaluation plan, working collaboratively to define shared outcomes and measures aligned with strategic plan

Family Engagement

  • Define family engagement
  • Improved, culturally competent information sharing about Early Childhood Care and Education (outreach campaign and early childhood ‘one-stop-shop’)
  • Investing in family engagement coordinators with a focus on school readiness and transitions
  • Improving early childhood resource and referral processes
  • Universal screening for social-emotional health

Professional Development

  • Sharing best practices across early childhood system
  • ECE provider professional development
  • Define common coaching competencies and certifications across early childhood system
  • Coordinate training of coaches
  • Targeted PD on:    
  • Healthy development of infants and toddlers
  • Parent engagement and partnership
  • American Indian cultural competency
  • ECE targeted learning communities
  • Child care small business owners, strengthen business practices, explore shared services, support cost modeling, toolkit)

Quality ECE

  • Increasing early childhood system coordination and collaboration based on needs assessment and strategic planning findings/recommendations
  • Improving data systems
  • Increasing ECE system capacity to improve access and quality for underserved populations and regions
  • Improving school readiness and transitions

We are excited to contract with the following experts to support these grant activities:

Collaborative Efforts


Community Coalition News

We look forward to sharing updates on the Need's Assessment at the Best Beginnings Coalition Meeting scheduled for April 23rd and 24th in Helena at the Delta Colonial Hotel