Mar 2017

Early Head Start Centers coming to Billings, Bozeman and Helena

AWARE Inc. received a federal grant for $3.8 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to expand its Early Head Start program to serve an additional 104 children and their families. AWARE Early Childhood Services Director Melinda Wade Corso received official notice Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

The federal grant will allow AWARE to open Early Head Start Centers to the Billings, Bozeman/Belgrade and Helena/East Helena communities. Each center will serve 24 children in classroom settings, and 32 children will receive Early Head Start services in partnerships with local child cares. AWARE has been operating Early Head Start in Butte since 1998.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to provide center-based services to children in these three communities,” Corso said. “We have been providing Early Head Start services through child care partnerships in Helena and Bozeman and having a center in these communities will give an additional option for parents who may not be working or going to school full time.”

The new centers will also house AWARE’s early childhood mental health teams with clinicians who specialize in Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). PCIT is an effective, unique approach that coaches parents on how to manage their child’s behaviors. PCIT works with the child and caregiver together to improve behavior and reduce parenting stress.

“Our early childhood services have a strong emphasis on supporting the social and emotional development of the child,” Corso said. “PCIT is a way to support and give parents very concrete tools so they can see results. Parenting is hard, and even the best parents can use help in managing their child’s challenging behaviors.”

AWARE is in the process of locating buildings for each of the centers. Corso says she hopes the early childhood team will have at least two of the three centers up and running within in the year.

For more information about the grant or AWARE’s Early Childhood Services, please contact Melinda Wade Corso at (406) 360-8856 or mcorso@aware-inc.org.

About AWARE Early Childhood Services

Early Head Start is federally funded, full-day and full-year, family-centered early care and education program for low-income infants and toddlers (ages birth to three). The program provides continuous, intensive and comprehensive child development and family support services to enhance the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of participating children.

AWARE’s Early Childhood Mental Health Services are available to all families, regardless of income. Programs include Parent Child Interaction Therapy, Teacher Child Interaction Therapy, individual and group therapy, Home Support Services (HSS), community support and case management


Mar 2017

Mary Caferro receives lifetime achievement award

Montana Senator Mary Caferro was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Montana American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

Known for her work as an advocate for women, children and people with disabilities, Mary was presented with the award Feb. 19, 2017, during ACS CAN’s legislative reception at Montana’s capitol building.

According to Kristin Page Nei, ACS CAN Montana Government Relations Director, the ACS CAN Lifetime Achievement award is a “once in a while” award the organization presents to legislative advocates and lawmakers “who have gone above and beyond in legislative action over a lifetime.”

Senator Mary Caferro accepts the Montana American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Lifetime Achievement Award from Kristin Page Nei, ACS CAN Montana Government Relations Director and fellow legislators.

Senator Mary Caferro accepts the “Montana ACS CAN Lifetime Achievement Award” from Kristin Page Nei, ACS CAN Montana Government Relations Director and fellow Montana legislators left Representative Ron Ehli and right Representative Rob Cook.

Mary has been working on cancer prevention since 2000. She helped secure funding for tobacco and disease detection. She’s helped increased cigarette taxes, which decreased children smokers by 50 percent. She’s also worked to help people on low incomes access health care and fight to prevent cancer.

“I’m a small part but very committed to a gigantic effort,” Mary said. “It’s a win-win because I love what prevention, intervention and revenue laws bring.”

Also an AWARE Inc. employee, Mary works as The Arc Montana Coordinator. The Arc Montana is an organization that promotes advocacy for people with disabilities.

Congratulations, Mary.


Mar 2017

Anaconda teen wins Yes I Can award

Brandon McCullough of Anaconda, Mont., is a recipient of the 2017 Yes I Can award. Presented by the Montana Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC), Brandon is one of five winners.

The Yes I Can award recognizes students with disabilities who excel in one of nine categories. They include academics, arts, athletics, community service, employment, extracurricular activities, independent living skills, technology or self-advocacy.

A success story among the youth AWARE Inc. serves, Brandon was nominated by his teachers at the Center for Excellence and his caregivers for being an outstanding self-advocate.

Kari Hoscheid, lead special education teacher at the Center for Excellence, said nominating Brandon for the award was an easy job. Between all of Brandon’s champions, 13 letters of approval were delivered to nominate him for the Region IV award.

“I’ve had him for years as a student and have watched him develop,” Kari said. “Brandon’s gone through a lot and has persevered even though it was really hard. He’s doing really well.”

The 14-year-old accepted the award during the annual MCEC awards luncheon February 16, 2017. He wore a suit and big smile to accept the award at the Hilton Garden Inn, Missoula.

Courage helps Brandon get through tough times

According to Kari, a few years ago, Brandon had a hard time sticking up for himself and saying how he felt inside. He wasn’t sure how to talk to staff and teachers about his needs.

Growing in many ways, he’s overcome the tendency to go within himself. Now a 9th grader, clearly, Brandon is developing into a courageous young man.

“I believe I can be anything I want to be that’s why I won the Yes I Can award,” he said.

Brandon says he’s a fan of the animated movie, “Stuart Little.” It’s about a mouse who was adopted. When Stuart arrives at his new home, he learns quickly how to stand up and speak up for himself.

“This is where I get my courage,” he said. “I use my courage to show people how to do the right thing.”

Reaching goals means standing up for his beliefs

Most people AWARE serves has a personal support plan. The plan gives each individual the opportunity to discuss their greatest wishes with a team and to create goals.

Now a student at Anaconda Junior Senior High School (AJSHS), Brandon said his biggest goal was to eventually attend public school. He became a full-time student at AJSHS back in January 2017.

“He’s an Anaconda High School student because he advocated for himself,” Kari said. Thriving in this environment both teachers and caregivers have helped Brandon create, “He’s proven that it’s the best place for him.”

Brandon says his favorite subjects are art and PE. He enjoys the friendships he is creating with teachers and fellow students.

In addition to winning the Yes I Can award, Brandon was also a delegate during AWARE’s Corporate Congress in January. He was nominated and elected by peers and staff to participate in the prestigious event.

Corporate Congress is a unique gathering, which allows elected employees to sponsor and vote on bills to improve the way customers are served. Approved unanimously by AWARE board members, Brandon’s bill proposed the creation of community gardens within group homes.

When asked about the leadership roles he’s fallen into, he replied, “I am an awesome kid.”

More information

MCEC holds an annual conference that offers continued education for special education teachers across Montana.

Aware’s Center for Excellence collaborates with Anaconda School District No. 10 to provide educational opportunities for children with severe emotional disturbance and other disabilities who otherwise wouldn’t be served in a classroom setting.

For more information, please contact Jacquie Peterson, AWARE media relations, at jpeterson@aware-inc.org or 406.563.8117 x 1054.