Thrive takes a holistic approach to strengthening families, and that approach begins with the community stepping up to help. In order for kids to grow up healthy and whole, and to succeed in the classroom and life, they need their basic needs met. Their parents need the resources to provide for those needs; learn best parenting practices; and ensure their children are getting the best education possible.
Why does Thrive believe that the community has to step up and help these families and children? It’s simple: the families and children in need are part of the community. When families fail to thrive, so too the community, which then becomes vulnerable to spiraling crime rates and unemployment.
The Thrive approach then, is as much preventive as it is holistic. How do you keep kids off the streets and out of trouble? Our latest small grant recipient’s recipe is to give children and families what they need, steer them in the right direction, and the community will be a better, more prosperous place to live.
We put some questions to recently-retired (after 24 years!) Executive Director Carrie Gilbertson to learn more about the Thrive approach to strengthening families:
Kars4Kids: Thrive serves children and families in Montana’s Gallatin Valley communities. Can you tell us something about your demographic? Who are the children and families that benefit from your work? How many children and families do you typically serve each year?
Carrie Gilbertson: Thrive services are available to any family with any need. Our focus is on prevention services like parent education, resource connection, and mentoring. We have a mentoring program in the Bozeman and Big Sky public schools that served 450 kids last school year.
Kars4Kids: Can you tell us why and how Thrive came into being? Who was the founder of Thrive and when did you begin operations?
Carrie Gilbertson: Thrive was founded in 1987 by a group of community members who felt like we were missing the preventative approach to raising healthy kids and families. One of the founding members was a family law judge who saw kids and families in his courtroom in situations that could have been prevented. Deborah Neuman was the first hired employee and she ran the organization for 28 years.
Kars4Kids: Can you expand on your model for success (strong families + successful children = thriving community)? How do you define a thriving community, and why does it begin with strengthening families? What makes a child a “success” and how do successful children contribute to a thriving community?
Carrie Gilbertson: A thriving community is one where people have access to basic needs; mental health services; a quality education; jobs; affordable housing; and community connection. Our children are our most vulnerable members and a thriving community is one that steps up to mentor and support our kids.
Kars4Kids: You have four signature programs. Let’s talk about the first of the four as listed on your website. What is the Child Advancement Project?
Carrie Gilbertson: CAP is a mentoring program for kids K-12 in both Big Sky and Bozeman. We match kids with community members 18+ who meet with them for one hour a week during the school year and during the school day. Kids are referred for a variety of reasons but the top reasons are: academic, social, absenteeism, and enrichment.
Kars4Kids: CAP is run on volunteer steam, correct? How many mentors do you have and how do you train them? Do some mentors mentor more than one child? What is the duration of the mentor/mentee relationship?
Carrie Gilbertson: This past school year we had 450 mentors. This is down from the 650 we had pre pandemic. We are working to build that number back up! The average relationship lasts two years, but it is our hope to make long-term matches. We have several cases where kids are matched with the same adult K-12. Oftentimes kids move, adults move, or circumstances change, and the mentoring relationship discontinues. All mentors are trained and background-checked. Mentors have access to a variety of resources to help support the match
Kars4Kids: What can you tell us about the Partnership Project? Can you give us an overview of this program and its significance? What is the cost for participation?
Carrie Gilbertson: Partnership Project is a home visiting program for young parents. There is no cost for participants.
Kars4Kids: Talk to us about the Parent Place. What are the specifics of this program and how does it benefit parents?
Carrie Gilbertson: The Parent Place is a family resource center. We offer parent education; developmental and social emotional screenings; coaching; and family fun events. All for free.
Kars4Kids: How does the Parent Liaison program work and why is it important to what you do? The liaisons are professionals, is that right? Are they social workers? Educators?
Carrie Gilbertson: The PL’s are school-based resources for parents K-8. They work with parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators to best support the student. They are all degreed professionals. Some have degrees in social work and some in education. They teach parent education, connect to resources, support attendance and provide one on one support to parents and teachers.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for Thrive?
Carrie Gilbertson: Thrive is focused on building up the mentoring program to better meet the needs of our growing community. We are also dedicated to meeting the needs of our rapidly growing Spanish-speaking population.