The president and CEO of the Missoula Chamber of Commerce on Monday was named the new chairperson of the Montana Early Childhood Advisory Council.
The appointment, made by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, places Kim Latrielle at the table as the state looks to bridge conversations between nonprofit childcare organizations and government.
“It’s truly an honor to be appointed to this position,” Latrielle said in a statement released after the announcement. “I look forward to strengthening childcare for our workforce in Montana.”
A 2019 survey by the Missoula Chamber asked parents how they felt about childcare options in the Missoula area. The results were unequivocal: Childcare is too expensive and hard to find.
The chamber has since joined community partners in seeking solutions, but the issue isn’t isolated to Missoula. In May, Gov. Greg Gianforte vetoed a bill that would have created a task force to identify solutions to Montana’s childcare shortage.
Instead, the governor said that he plans to tackle the challenge by placing childcare funding included in Montana’s federal coronavirus relief package into initiatives designed to make it easier for new providers to open childcare facilities.
While the Gianforte administration tackles the issue, the Montana Early Childcare Advisory Council will work to improve collaboration and coordination across the spectrum of government and non-profit organizations that provide early childhood services.
According to DPHHS, the council’s efforts will explore support for families with young children, along with meeting the social, emotional and mental health needs of young children. It will also work to ensure children have access to quality early childhood programs.
Former Gov. Steve Bullock attempted to go down that road by implementing a state-supported preschool system during his tenure, including pre-Kindergarten education. Those efforts, made across several Legislative sessions, were killed by the Republican majority.
Latrielle isn’t new to the state’s childcare needs and the necessity of supporting working parents. In 2020, she led the Missoula Chamber in a survey that identified childcare as a critical workforce issue.
In 1999, she also represented Montana in Washington, D.C., as an advocate and critical thinker on early childhood issues, along with business models that might support community childcare needs.