Montana expands parenting website; includes info for foster parents

| December 30, 2020 12:00 AM

Officials with the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced recently the expansion of ParentingMontana.org, a website created specifically for parents and those in a parenting role.

The expansion includes new resources that provide practical tools to support parents of children 0-4, information for current foster parents and those considering fostering, increased access to the information through audio files, informative “how-to” videos, and a new podcast series featuring national parenting experts all incorporated into the newly designed website. ParentingMontana.org is developed by the Center for Health and Safety Culture at Montana State University.

“DPHHS is committed to supporting Montana’s parents and children,” said Jamie Palagi, DPHHS Early Childhood and Family Support Division administrator. “ParentingMontana.org provides timely information at the fingertips of parents, youth, prevention specialists, and counselors in easy-to-use formats. We all want what’s best for our children, and this website helps address challenges with helpful suggestions and tips grounded in research and best practices.”

Palagi said the early years of a child’s life are vital to their development. She noted the wide range of information the website provides for the 0-4 years covers building confidence, reading, setting routines, handling tantrums, instilling empathy, developing resilience, and more are addressed in tools for parents of infants.

“Social and emotional development is critical during early childhood and it can be challenging for parents to manage and know how to support healthy development,” Palagi said. “Adding specific information for 0-4-year-olds provides practical tools to support parents of young children to be the best they can be and give their children a healthy start in life.”

Palagi said the mental, emotional, and behavioral health of children is shaped by their earliest interactions with those caring for them.

Research shows the mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) development of children directly impacts their academic and health-related outcomes in childhood and adulthood.

Parents and those in a parenting role have a unique opportunity to influence and teach the social and emotional skills that children need to bolster their MEB health. The website provides parents tools for a wide range of issues that walk parents through a 5-step process of skill development.

The new foster parent section of the website helps answer questions of those considering foster care, helps prepare those who have decided to move forward, and includes a section that focuses on the first 24 hours, first week and first six weeks after a child is placed in foster care.

“The first few days and weeks are critical for both foster parents and children, and the website will be a tremendous resource for foster parents going forward,” said DPHHS Child and Family Services Division Administrator Marti Vining. “We are always looking to improve how we communicate and provide information to foster parents, and this is an excellent addition.”

Vining urges those interested in becoming a licensed foster parent to call 1-866-936-7837 (866-9Foster) or by going online and filling out a Foster Care Inquiry Form here https://dphhs.mt.gov/CFSD/Fosterparent/fostercareinquiryform

The website also includes tools for parents of children ages 5-19 in audio format. Busy parents can now access the popular tools in multiple ways – as web pages, as pdf files, and now as audio files. Another addition to the website is podcasts featuring national parenting experts.

One podcast features – “Ways to Grow a Healthy Parenting Relationship,” and the other podcast is about an often-challenging topic for parents – “Guidance and Discipline for Skill Building.”

Mary Buenz, the Family Engagement Coordinator for The Nurturing Center in Kalispell is excited to begin utilizing the new information.

“I’ve been using the tools that can be found on ParentingMontana.org for a few years now, and find the information to be helpful in the lives of every day parents,” she said. “And, for those of us in the field of prevention, it gives those in this profession an excellent resource of information that we can share with those in our community who face many of the challenges presented within the information.”

Heather McCartney-Duty of Family Connections in Great Falls describes ParentingMontana.org this way: “Parenting the parent through tough spots in their kids’ lives helps achieve the goal of positive life outcomes for all,” she said. “The website is a really innovative, research-led and best-practices-based for all stages of parenting.”

In addition to tools for parents, ParentingMontana.org has a toolkit of resources for community prevention coordinators to get the word out across Montana and to help facilitate this information with parents. Resources for engaging teachers, healthcare providers, law enforcement, and other community liaisons are available in the coordinator toolkit.

ParentingMontana.org first launched in 2019 with a set of resources to support the success of Montana’s children from kindergarten through the teen years.

The website also includes a Media section, which can be used to share resources with others, including video, radio and print materials. These can be shared on social media, in newsletters, or through traditional channels such as television, radio, and direct mail.

All the tools and information on the website can be easily viewed, downloaded, or shared electronically. The website also has a link of how Montanans can connect with a Prevention Coordinator in their area.