Rep. Erin Murphy in New York Mills to learn about child care cooperative
Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-64A), former Majority Leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives and DFL candidate for governor, was in New York Mills on Monday to meet with organizers of the new child care cooperative for area residents.
The roundtable included: Mark Hanson, Economic Development Director for New York Mills;
Lynda Everson, Human Resources Director for Brunswick Boat Group; Betsy Roder, City Council member for New York Mills and Executive Director for New York Mills Cultural Center;
Margaret Aho, Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership; and Michelle Wilkowski, Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership.
Murphy said part of the reason she wanted to meet with the group was because their work was an example of communities figuring out real solutions to problems.
"Part of our job is to facilitate and encourage that and not be a barrier," she said. "What I want to do is listen carefully to the things that are working and see what we can do to help."
The group explained the process of how the the child care cooperative came to be in New York Mills, starting with in-home daycares closing. Employers became aware that child care was a problem when employees had to quit because they didn't have anyone to watch their children.
Mark Hanson, economic development director for New York Mills, said in doing economic development, child care wasn't a topic— it didn't come up.
"I had no knowledge of how it all worked. I called Mahube-Otwa and said we need help because I was told they are the authority on the topic. Then we needed to find a space, and now we have companies onboard like Lund and Tri County Hospital," said Hanson. "It's not just here, it's everywhere, but what's nice is we have this cooperative attitude.
Margaret Aho pointed out that center-based child care in rural Minnesota is not realistic because the workforce isn't there, which is why they are pursuing the cooperative model.
Hanson said they learned you can do family child care out of the house in a commercial setting under special circumstances. He called it a pod system. Hanson said businesses like the hospital will be able to use this as a recruitment tool. "They can say, 'we have child care' and be an employer of choice."
Businesses that are a part of it can also have a say in the hours. For example, those with shift work such as Lund might have daycare hours that start earlier than a normal daycare.
Murphy said what interested her in coming and talking to the group is the fact that child care is a crisis for a lot of families across the state, and she's interested in hearing solutions.
"I read about this, and I thought here is a really good idea and here is a group of people who are trying to figure it out," she said. "With what voice and power I have, I want to bring these examples to the forefront because it helps other communities. And it's a way to remind people of all that we are capable of. Even the hardest issues we can tackle. I found as a nurse, the best solutions come from people who are facing a problem. It comes from our lived experiences."