Pre-K teacher Amy Whittle

Amy Whittle, a preschool teacher at the YWCA Child Care Center, addresses her students in this 2014 file photo. The YWCA is closing its child care program but keeping the preschool program. 

The Billings YWCA will be closing its child care program as the advocacy group turns toward addressing more family-focused needs.

Based on current enrollment, 24 slots will be lost in the child care program. The group — which supports women and children, especially victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking — will continue to offer a 16-slot preschool program.

”This has been a multi-year conversation that we’ve been having,” said YWCA director of programs Erin Lambert. “It’s really just thinking differently about how we’re serving the early child care needs we’ve got in our community.”

The YWCA will be adding a family engagement coordinator tasked with helping families find child care, enrolling school-age children, talking about developmental needs and available resources, and addressing physical health needs.

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The move follows a trend for the group, pushing into affordable housing and other whole-family issues. The YWCA hired a housing navigator in January, which Lambert said has helped 50 individuals secure housing, and opened a 24-unit affordable housing complex in August.

“We’re very committed to the school readiness,” Lambert said. “We really believe that in order for a child to be ready for school and to be able to learn, the whole family needs to have everything that they need to be successful. And that includes housing and access to food.”

According to a letter distributed about the closure, the YWCA has been providing child care in Billings for 35 years. The non-preschool slots are slated to be eliminated by either Aug. 30 or when all currently enrolled children find new child care, whichever comes first.

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