Flathead Reservation-Lake County Coalition supports kids and families


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Promoting a safe, healthy and thriving community is key to the work being carried out by the Zero to Five Flathead Reservation-Lake County Coalition. Established in 2021, the group is an extension of the Young Child Wellness Council, a network of professionals working to support parents and children in our communities for the last 7 years.

The overall coalition is supported by the Headwaters Foundation, as part of a statewide initiative focused on the 0-5 age group.

“We all know from personal experience, and the research shows, those early years are so influential on a person’s entire life,” explained project coordinator Jennifer Rolfsness. “Working collaboratively with the entire community, our program is seeking ways to help children have the best foundation possible.”

With a mission of connecting communities, celebrating families and cultivating futures, the initiative centers on supportive relationships and direct family engagement. During its first year the coalition partnered on events for families that were free and open to all. This included the Penguin Path in December and the Spring Fling – Family Fitness Day, as well as other outreach activities.

Special activities will take place again this year, including a new “parent’s nights out,” which aims to give parents a little break and offer healthy alternatives for a night out. Along with community activities, the group works to promote a strong professional network, hosting monthly informational lunches as well as helping families access services and resources.

To support these goals, the group has developed a website, www.zerotofivefrlc.org, with community listings and links to providers. The website is one way of connecting with the community, and includes a monthly community member profile that shares the stories of those working to support families.

After year one, the group identified several areas of needs for local childcare providers. Options are limited and many of the service providers have a tough time keeping ahead of it all. To address some of the challenges the coalition will offer assistance to childcare centers for connecting children to local historic, cultural and educational venues.

The program will also continue to host free professional development programs for those working in childcare, with more information on these projects released in the next few months.

One of the most exciting upcoming developments is the development of outdoor play spaces (Playing it Forward). A work group is currently building a strategic plan to create permanent play areas to connect families with the natural world and physical activity.

The Zero to Five Coalition also plans to honor those making a difference in education and is currently taking nominations for the Big Sky Bright Lights Program, which celebrates educators in the schools this fall and in the spring. A similar program will be available for childcare agencies.

To nominate someone for the Bright Lights Program or get more info on the Zero to Five Coalition, email Jennifer [email protected] or call 406-883-8256.

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