Where children are born can affect their chances for a strong start in life. Babies need Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences to foster their healthy brain development and help them realize their full potential.
This state profile provides a snapshot of how infants, toddlers, and their families are faring in each of these three policy domains. Within each domain, view data for selected child, family, and policy indicators compared to national averages. The profile begins with a demographic description of the state’s babies and families to offer the broadest context for exploring what may be very different experiences of the state’s youngest children.
Infants and toddlers in Montana
Infants and toddlers in Montana
Montana is home to 36,944 babies, representing 3.5 percent of the state’s population. As many as 45.0 percent live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line (in 2018, about $50,000 a year for a family of four), placing them at economic disadvantage. America’s youngest children are diverse and are raised in a variety of family contexts. In Montana, 23.4 percent of babies are children of color and 74.8 percent of the state’s infants and toddlers live in rural areas. A broad array of policies and services are required to ensure all of them have an equitable start in life.
How are Montana’s babies faring in Good Health?
Good physical and mental health provide the foundation for babies to develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially. The rate of brain growth is faster in the first 3 years than at any later stage of life, and this growth sets the stage for subsequent development. Access to good nutrition and affordable maternal, pediatric, and family health care is essential to ensure that babies receive the nourishment and care they need for a strong start in life.
Montana falls in the Improving Outcomes (O) tier for the Good Health domain. A state’s ranking is based on indicators of maternal and child health, including health care coverage, prenatal care, birth outcomes, and receipt of recommended preventive care as well as food security, nutrition, and mental health. Montana performs better than national averages on key indicators, such as the percentages of babies breastfed at 6 months and babies receiving preventive medical care. The state is performing worse than national averages on indicators such as the percentages of babies experiencing food insecurity and mothers reporting less than favorable mental health. Montana is a Medicaid expansion state. The state Medicaid program covers 5 of 5 screenings and services that support socioemotional well-being and maternal and infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH).
Six Key Indicators of Good Health
Good Health Policy in Montana
All Good Health Indicators for Montana
How are Montana’s babies faring in Strong Families?
Young children develop in the context of their families, where stability, safety, and supportive relationships nurture their growth. All families benefit from parenting supports, and many—particularly those challenged by economic instability—require access to additional resources that help them meet their children’s daily and developmental needs. Key supports include safe and stable housing, home visiting services, family-friendly employer policies, economic support for families with low income, and tax credits that benefit families with young children.
Montana falls in the Getting Started (G) tier of states when it comes to indicators of Strong Families. The state’s ranking in this domain reflects indicators on which it is performing better than the national average, such as the percentages of families in poverty with babies receiving TANF and babies living in crowded housing. Montana is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the percentages of parents who report being resilient and babies who have had one adverse experience. Policy-wise, the state has implemented 1 of 5 policies that promote strong families, such as paid sick and family leave, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) options, the Child Tax Credit, and Earned Income Tax Credit.
Six Key Indicators of Strong Families
Strong Families Policy in Montana
All Strong Families Indicators for Montana
Positive Early Learning Experiences
How are Montana’s babies faring in Positive Early Learning Experiences?
Infants and toddlers learn through play, active exploration of their environment, and, most importantly, through interactions with the significant adults in their lives. The quality of babies’ early learning experiences at home and in other care settings impacts how prepared they are for life-long learning and success. Parents who work or attend school require access to affordable, high-quality care options that foster their babies’ development. During this rapid period of growth, access to screening and early intervention is essential to address potential developmental delays.
Montana scores in the Working Effectively (W) tier for Positive Early Learning Experiences. The state’s ranking in this domain reflects indicators on which it is performing better than the national average, such as the higher percentages of parents who read and income-eligible babies with access to Early Head Start. Montana is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the lower percentage of babies who receive IDEA Part C services. Infant care costs as a percentage of the state’s median income for single and married parents also contribute to the ranking. The state does not offer child care subsidy assistance to families with incomes above 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.