baby walking

Early Childhood Initiative

Our children, our future

Montana communities know that investing in children is essential. Research shows that the period between when a baby is born and their fifth birthday is a critical period of a child’s life, when the brain experiences its most rapid growth. Nurturing children and their positive relationships with adults during this time is fundamental to their success in school, to their social and emotional development, and to the way they adapt to stress and achieve success throughout their lives. Yet, these experiences can be difficult for everyone to achieve in our state.

In Montana, two thirds of children under age five live in a home where both parents work, yet Montana is one of only six states that does not offer public pre-Kindergarten for four-year-olds, and working families struggle to find and afford safe, child care options throughout our state where this critical learning can take place. Early childhood programs have been historically underfunded in Montana, resulting in a fragmented system that is difficult for families to access and navigate.

With this aim in mind, Headwaters provides multi-year funding to a select number of locally-driven, multi-sector collaborative groups working to advance opportunities for children ages 0-5 in Western Montana. Additionally, Headwaters funds early childhood projects in communities where a collaborative does not exist or where a promising new model could lead to replication in other communities. Headwaters also provides funding to expand the capacity of local organizations to connect research, policy, and advocacy efforts to improve the lives of kids in their earliest years. We do this by funding state-level partners that support policy and advocacy around early childhood, and by providing technical assistance and support to local organizations focusing on improving the lives of children and families.

If you are working to advance opportunities for kids ages 0-5 and want to learn more about funding opportunities, please contact Ashley Shaw, program officer.


Click here to read our full 2022 program plan.