Program looks to create network of child care substitutes


When a staff member at a child care center is out sick, the center can be hard-pressed to find substitutes, which often means the center is forced to close for the day.

When that happens it leaves guardians often unable to work.

According to Melissa Miller, substitute service specialist at Raise Montana, a program that works to bolster childcare, Montana is in a “childcare crisis.”

To combat this chain of events, Raise Montana initiated the Raise Montana Substitute Service, or RMSS, which seeks to expand the workforce by recruiting and providing training for individuals interested in serving as substitutes. In addition to RMSS, Raise Montana offers professional development training, services to help providers with payroll, a job board, and a resource library for families.

“Paying for new staff to become fully trained is often an expensive and time-consuming barrier for child care programs. RMSS will increase the early care and education workforce by supporting individuals throughout the multi-step training process. Once the individual is a state-certified caregiver, they are able to pick up substitute shifts with local licensed child care providers across Montana,” the program said in a release.

The opportunity is ideal for those with a flexible work schedule such as students, retirees, or teachers who can work before school and after school shifts.

Many local child care providers, such as Lisa Perrin, Director of Pinewoods Childcare in Lakeside, have already expressed their support for the initiative.

“As a family and group provider in the valley for the past 16 years, it has always been a challenge to schedule appointments and attend my children’s activities without a state-approved back up to fill in. It would be such an amazing opportunity to have subs ready to fill in when I need someone. This would not only benefit me, but the families I provide for as well,” said Perrin.

RMSS is recruiting statewide and expects to open its services in the Flathead Valley as soon as enough substitutes are trained. The process for interested individuals includes an application, an interview, a background check and a reference check. Afterward, the substitute will become certified in CPR, first aide and take other child care provider courses. Once fully certified, a substitute will be able to accept or decline shifts through their mobile devices.

Miller said she hopes that RMSS will have a total of 100 substitutes by August 2023 in order to support the needs of child care providers. Currently, RMSS is open in Great Falls, Florence, Clancy, Billings and Helena.

“Children are the future of Montana and it is vital that we ensure that they can receive the education and care that they need,” Miller stated.

To apply for RMSS, contact text “Sub” to 59925, email [email protected], or visit to learn more and apply. Businesses that are interested in supporting Raise Montana’s mission of advancing childcare can visit

Reporter Summer Zalesky may be reached at [email protected].

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