Montana: Using Subsidy Policy to Promote Continuity of Care

May 22, 2009

Montana supports continuity of care through a range of subsidy policies that address the child care challenges of working families. After the Montana Early Childhood Advisory Council (MECAC) advised the state that providers faced challenges in serving children receiving child care assistance, state leaders developed policies to help ensure that families are able to meet subsidy eligibility and retain their status during temporary periods of absence or transition. In the Montana Child Care Policy Manual, these measures are specifically outlined in Section 6.6 titled "Absent Day Policies - Maintaining the Continuity of Care." The section lays out three goals as critical to maintaining continuity of care:

  • Maintain parents\' eligibility
  • Meet the needs for additional child care
  • Stabilize child care arrangements

The Montana Early Childhood Services Bureau administers the early child care subsidy program, which is also called the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship. Although the state\'s policies apply to all children participating in the subsidy system, infants and toddlers can particularly benefit from them.

Below are some of Montana\'s policies concerning continuity of care that are particularly helpful to families with babies and toddlers: 

Absent Days

  • Montana offers a Best Beginnings benefit called Certified Enrollment (CE) to families that are responsible for payments to their child care provider even on days that their child is temporarily absent. To be eligible, a child must be in a full-time child care program, and the provider cannot be a legally unregistered provider. Certified Enrollment means that a child still qualifies for child care assistance on days when the child is not in a provider\'s care; payments to a provider will still be made. A child may receive up to 15 CE days, which move with the child from program to program, per year. Situations in which CE hours can be applied include absences due to illness. Infants and toddlers tend to become ill more often than older children because their immune systems are still developing.
  • Montana also offers a "hold-the-slot" policy for families that have first used up their CE hours. Similar to CE hours, a Best Beginnings payment is made to a licensed or registered provider to hold a slot for up to 30 consecutive days when a child is temporarily absent or a parent is between eligible activities. The hold-the-slot policy is not limited to 30 days total in a year. However, it may not be used in consecutive 30-day periods. 

Medical Appointments and Emergencies

  • Best Beginning policies allow parents that meet work/activity requirements to use their subsidy for time needed to leave work in order to attend medical appointments; the scholarship can be used to cover the cost of sibling care. This policy is supportive of parents with newborns given that at a minimum, newborns must receive a medical checkup every three months in the first year.
  • Additionally, families receiving a subsidy may continue receiving assistance during medical emergencies. Although the scholarship cannot be applied to normal maternity leave, it can be used for medical emergencies involving pregnancy-related problems.  

Presumptive Eligibility/Improper Payments

  • Provided that certain criteria are met, Montana permits subsidies to take effect before all application materials have been verified; payments made for less than 30 days is not considered an improper payment. Presumptive eligibility supports a family\'s immediate child care needs and ability to afford care, particularly for infants and toddlers where care is often costly.


State contact information:

Chauntel Lucier
CCR&R Program Specialist
Early Childhood Services Bureau, Department of Public Health and Human Services
(406) 329-1286


See all Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care State Examples.

Read more about the project recommendation to Use Subsidy Policy to Promote Stable, Quality Care, including research, policy ideas, and links to online resources.

Read more about the project recommendation to Promote Continuity of Care, including research, policy ideas, and links to online resources.

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