The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services administers a variety of programs aimed at expanding access to and improving the quality of care and education for preschool children.
The Early Childhood Services Bureau of the Department’s Human and Community Services Division offers the following services:
Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarships: Help qualified working families find and afford quality child care.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program: Provides funding to qualified child-care programs to offer nutritious meals and snacks.
The Head Start – State Collaboration Office: Links Head Start programs and communities through collaborative relationships.
Quality Care Programs: Promote children’s learning by improving the quality of Montana’s early care and education and after-school programs.
The role of the Child Care Licensing Program within the Department’s Quality Assurance Division is to regulate and monitor child-care facilities to protect the health, safety, and well being of children receiving care in Montana.
The program conducts regular surveys of child-care facilities and investigates complaints against facilities and staff.
Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions a family can make. Here are some factors you may wish to consider:
- Is the facility licensed or registered by the State of Montana?
- Does the caregiver seem warm and friendly? Does he or she seem to enjoy children?
- Is the caregiver knowledgeable about children’s emotional and physical development?
- Does the caregiver serve nutritious meals and snacks?
- Does the caregiver plan age-appropriate activities?
- Does the home or facility employ appropriate safety measures?
- Does the caregiver respect your family and cultural values?
To search for a licensed or registered child-care provider in Montana by name or city, click here.
For help in selecting a child-care provider, contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.
The Department offers Best Beginnings child-care scholarships to qualified low-income families who send children to licensed child-care centers, registered group or family child-care homes, or legally unregistered child-care providers. Each family participates in the cost of that care by making a co-payment based on family income.
Scholarships are also available to families who get cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program while they participate in Family Investment Agreement activities and demonstrate a need for child care.
The first step in becoming a child-care provider is to determine which type of care setting you wish to provide:
- Child Care Center
A center serves 13 or more children, with a staff-to-child ratio based on the age of the children. State law requires child-care centers to be licensed by the Department’s Child Care Licensing Program. Before-school, drop-in, after-school, and preschool programs are not required to be licensed.
Licensing staff inspect centers twice a year. Health and fire officials visit once a year. The center director is required to be educated or experienced in early care and education. All caregivers who work 160 hours or more a year are required to attend eight hours of annual training. Center directors are required to attend 15 hours of annual training. Directors and caregivers are also required to have certification in CPR and first aid.
- Group Home
Two adults provide care for 7-12 children, with a limit of six under the age of 2. Group homes must be registered with the Child Care Licensing Program. The providers must complete a self-assessment checklist of health, safety, and child-care program regulations. They also must attend a child-care orientation session within 60 days of registration.
- Family Home
Care is offered in a homelike setting, usually the caregiver’s residence. In a family home, a caregiver cares for up to six children at a time, with no more than three under the age of 2. Family child-care homes must be registered with the Child Care Licensing Program.
- Legally Certified Provider
In this more informal type of care, a parent or legal guardian selects an individual—often a family member, friend, or neighbor—to care for all the children in one family or up to two unrelated children. Legally Certified Providers must pass Montana and FBI criminal background checks and Child Protective Services background checks but are not otherwise regulated or monitored by the State of Montana.
Once you have determined the type of care you wish to provide, contact your nearest Child Care Resource and Referral Agency or the Early Childhood Services Bureau to get a registration or licensing packet.
For more information about becoming a child-care provider, contact the Department’s Child Care Licensing Program at 406-444-2012.