5 Ways to Help Us Thrive!

Without community support, Families First Children’s Museum would not exist! Here are five ways you can give and support our organization:

1. Contribute to our Annual Giving Campaign. As we look to add new exhibits, improve programming and strengthen our family education offerings, our end-of-the-year appeal provides critical funding. You can contribute to our success by mailing a donation, dropping it off on your next visit or donating online. Giving Tuesday (November 28) is the perfect time to give and make your donations go even further thanks to an exciting dollar-for-dollar match opportunity we’ll announce more about soon.

2. Shop at our Barnes & Noble Bookfair. Saturday, Dec. 9, Barnes and Noble (2640 N. Reserve St.) will be donating a percentage of all net sales to Families First Children’s Museum. We’ll have fun family activities in-store between 10 am and 4 pm, including a performance by the Big Sky High School choir at 2 pm, a visit from Santa at 3 pm, and a secret surprise you won’t want to miss in the early afternoon! Be sure to tell your cashier you’re supporting Families First with your purchase. If you can’t attend in person, you can shop online  between Dec. 9 and Dec. 14. Use code “12260063” when asked for bookfair ID at checkout.

3. Donate from our wish list. We use a variety of art tools, paper products, paints and other supplies to keep our museum programming engaging. You can donate new items from our wish list to make it happen! Better yet, you can organize a supply drive through your work place, community group or place of worship and make it a team effort. Our wish list is here to your right. For details about hosting a supply drive, contact Sarah, our museum manager by email or phone (406) 541-7529.

4. Shop Amazon. If you regularly shop Amazon.com, a portion of your eligible purchases can be donated to Families First. To get started, click on the Amazon Smile logo on our home page or simply begin shopping at smile.amazon.com.  This is a year-round program!

5. Volunteer. We’re working to build a vibrant volunteer program at the museum. Do you have an hour or two to spare—or know someone who would like to volunteer? If so, contact museum manager Sarah Osteen by email or phone (406) 541-7529. Currently, our most pressing need is for someone to do minor maintenance jobs, but other options exist. To learn more about volunteering and the benefits you may receive, click here.

Meet Your New Family Education Director

There are two things Claire Phinney is drawn to professionally: education and advocacy. So, when the family education director position at Families First Children’s Museum opened late this summer, it intrigued her. “It’s the kind of work I feel really passionate about,” she says.  After applying and getting the job, it’s proving to be a great fit. Helping people doing one of the toughest jobs there is—parenting—is especially rewarding for Claire because she loves making life easier for others. “It’s something that makes me happy,” she says.

Claire, a Seattle-area native with deep roots in Montana comes from “a family of helpers.” With an undergraduate degree in early childhood education and development (and later a master’s degree in human development with an emphasis on conflict transformation and nonprofit leadership), she started her career as a preschool teacher. Although she loved the job, she realized she could have even greater reach outside of a school. “I wanted to have an impact on more than just a classroom of kids,” she says.

That led her to nonprofit work, where she was first employed as the program development coordinator/tribal liaison for Washington Association of CASA/GAL Programs and then as the educational advocacy regional coordinator/curriculum development specialist by Treehouse for Kids, which is an organization dedicated to helping foster children. After moving to Missoula, where she’s lived for more than 9 years, she also served as executive director of WORD (Women’s Opportunity & Resource Development). These positions have prepared her well to take our parenting programs to the next level.

Many people are surprised to learn that assisting parents is at the core of Families First’s mission.  Our children’s museum first opened in 2002, eight years after our parenting programs started. Claire will be spearheading efforts to enliven these programs, which to this point, have included group classes, individual consultations and parenting plan mediations. She hopes to grow these services, make them as relevant as possible to today’s families and work to better get the word about them out to the community.

That will start by looking for ways to reach families visiting the museum—and making services available in ways that are comfortable for them, even before they have to ask for help. But it will also include evaluating our overall services to make sure we’re offering parents the help they need in the manner they’d like to receive it. The goal is to make parents feel supported and empowered—whether they’re looking for ways to strengthen their relationship and give their kids the best possible start in life, or unsure of how to deal with a specific problem they’re having with a child at home. “Parents want to make things as wonderful as possible for their kids, but it’s hard to ask for help when a problem feels very personal,” states Claire.  “I would love to have parents walk in here and feel as comfortable as if they had just walked into their own backyard.”

As the mother of two young boys who are “her world,” and who help drive her passion for ensuring children receive the best possible care from those who provide for and teach them, she knows that empowering parents is critical. “I understand the challenges that come with raising kids,” she says.  “Everything you do matters. I, like any other parent, have challenges that feel insurmountable.” But, she adds, empowerment changes everything—how you feel, how you absorb information and how you interact with others. And that makes all the difference.

Currently, mediations and consultations are temporarily on hold as we restructure these programs and determine how to make sure they best meet community needs. We hope to announce plans for their future very soon.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about how our parenting services may be able to help you, call Claire at (406) 721-7690.

MCPS Parenting Classes Kick Off Sept. 20

Just because you no longer go to school doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to learn. In fact, some people might say that it’s when you become a parent that you have the most to learn.

Families First Children’s Museum is here to help.

Through a contract with Missoula County Public Schools, we educate moms and dads on topics that help make the tough job of parenting at least a little easier. Are you unsure of how to keep your kids safe on social media? We’ve got a class for that! Want some tips on encouraging your child without relying solely on praise and rewards? We can help! Do your kids worry more than most? Our Helping Kids Cope with Anxieties class may be just what you need to help put their minds—and yours—at ease!

Two-hour, discussion-based classes like these are held at schools throughout the MCPS system during the school year, in addition to the parenting classes we offer in-house. They begin at 6:15 pm, are open to everyone (your child does not have to attend the school where the class is held) and are FREE! Free childcare is available to participants as well.

Our instructors include professors, counselors and masters or PhD candidates who have expertise and personal experience in the subject matter, explains Colleen Biehl, our parenting programs coordinator, who helps get the classes set up. Topics are selected by individual schools from a list of 30 to 40 possibilities we provide each year.

“They’re based on parents’ needs,” says Colleen. “A lot of times, the classes enable people to look at their parenting style and decide they may benefit by implementing something new.”

Similar classes are offered in Polson and Pablo through our relationship with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. While the classes are really designed for parents, day care providers often benefit from them as well. We designate classes that are most applicable to them.

“Parents really like the classes,” says Colleen. “On the whole, talking with each other is probably one of their favorite parts. They like being with other parents and knowing that somebody has a problem like theirs.”

This year’s schedule begins Sept. 20, with a class designed to help children learn to resolve conflicts and become peacemakers. While the classes are free, they do require online pre-registration. If you have any questions, please feel free to call Colleen at (406) 721-7690.

View our upcoming schedule of classes.

Register online.