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In Gallatin County, childcare options fall short of demand

A $31 million pool of federal grant money could help bolster childcare services in Montana.
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There are around 2,500 childcare slots in Gallatin County in residential areas and childcare centers, but it’s not enough.

A new Montana Department of Labor and Industry report shows there is more demand for childcare in Gallatin County than there are slots available.

Tori Sproles is the executive director of Childcare Connections, a nonprofit that helps families find and afford childcare in 6 Montana counties including Gallatin.

She says there are around 2,500 childcare slots in Gallatin County in residential areas and childcare centers, but it’s not enough.

“In Gallatin County we are meeting fifty percent of the childcare demand,” she said, citing information produced by MTDLI with capacity data from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Sproles says getting the business community involved could open up more slots for community members.

“Trying to figure out how to utilize business models to either help subsidize childcare, open up on-site childcare for their employees, that sort of thing, so employer supported is definitely something that we’re really focused on,” she said.

Speaking at a Bozeman Chamber luncheon earlier this month, she said employer-supported childcare is currently the main focus of a child task force she facilitates, which is comprised of more than 15 organizations and businesses. The group meets monthly.

Sproles says legislation moving through the Capitol could also open up more childcare availability. Senate Bill 376 would prohibit HOAs from making future amendments that prohibit residential childcare. It passed the Senate and will go before the house in early April.

Corrected: March 27, 2023 at 12:50 PM MDT
An earlier version of this story had incorrectly put there are 2,500 providers in Gallatin County. There are 2,500 childcare slots in the county.
Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.