Our founder, Janice Joseph Watson, fondly known as “Jay” or “J.J.,” opened Jack and Jill Nursery and Day Care in 1968 after retiring as an elementary school teacher at Target Range School in Missoula.

Police and child protection social workers had few alternatives when they needed a place for children who were abandoned, abused, neglected or whose parents were incarcerated. They would search for relatives, open hospital beds, and empty jail cells or sometimes bring a child to their own home. With nowhere to turn, police and social workers would contact Janice, who compassionately and selflessly welcomed the children into her home. In 1977, Watson Children’s Shelter was officially opened, and at that time was known as Watson’s Receiving Home.

Unfortunately, Janice passed away in December of 1993. But her legacy continued through the Receiving Home, eventually becoming Extended Family Services, and in 1997, Watson Children’s Shelter.

Outgrowing Janice’s’ home, and in an effort to continue to meet the need for services, we opened a brand new home in 2000 located at 2901 Fort Missoula Road. The need for shelter care continued to increase over the years and in 2010 we opened a second new home at 4978 Buckhouse Lane. Both homes continue to serve children in crisis and have largely remained at capacity since their opening.

In response to dramatically increased child abuse and neglect reports in Montana and an ever-growing need for shelter care services for children, in 2016 we decided as an agency to focus “upstream” to address the issues and concerns within families that were leading to the abuse and neglect of children in the first place. That focus led to the development of our evidenced-based Healthy Foundations family support program which officially launched in March of 2018. The program works to strengthen families by addressing stressors, barriers, and challenges, ultimately helping create stronger, healthier, and more stable family environments where children can grow and thrive. Thereby dramatically reducing the likelihood of child abuse or neglect from ever occurring.

What a gift we were given to carry on Janice’s legacy of compassion and care for children. Whether by providing Shelter Care to over 100 Montana children annually or by working to strengthen families and help create safe and nurturing homes through Healthy Foundations, we carry on Janice’s legacy every day through our work.