April 26 forum will focus on child care solutions

The League of Women Voters Park Rapids Area (LWV) is hosting the second of two forums at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26 in the Northwoods Bank community room

Preschool teacher and cute kids play in kindergarten
Preschool teacher and cute kids boys playing in kindergarten
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A panel of five experts will discuss possible solutions to the child care crisis in the region.

The League of Women Voters Park Rapids Area (LWV) is hosting the second of two forums at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26 in the Northwoods Bank community room, 1200 1st Street E. in Park Rapids.

April’s panel features the following:

  • Michelle Wilkowski, a 25-year veteran of Head Start and current director of MAHUBE-OTWA Head Start. As a licensed pre-K teacher, Wilkowski began her career in early childhood as an Early Head Start home visitor and teacher before becoming director in 2018.
  • Missy Okeson has been program officer and child care lead at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation (NMF) since 2016. She collaborates with early educators, community task forces and regional child care experts to create quality child care solutions for the well-being of young children and families throughout the 12 counties and two tribal nations NMF serves.
  • Michele Hutchinson has been in the early childhood field for over 30 years. Her experience ranges from a parent on the Early Childhood Family Education advisory board to policy council with Head Start. Struggling to find quality care, she operated her own group family child care, along with her own five children, for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from Concordia College, St. Paul. Hutchinson was hired as a business development specialist with First Children’s Finance in August 2021.
  • Dana Patsie, director of child care programs at MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership, oversees a number of programs that support children’s access to quality early childhood education. Those supports include early learning scholarships, child care assistance, Child Care Aware/Parent Aware quality coaching and Wayfinder Navigation.
  • Maria Steen, child care connections director at Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership (CAPLP) based in Moorhead, provides resources for child care professionals to succeed in their careers and helps families access and afford quality child care through financial support. The CAPLP Child Care Aware team serves early childhood educators in the 21 counties and two tribal nations of northwest Minnesota through child care services grants, professional development training and advising, and Parent Aware recruitment and outreach. CAPLP also provides new child care startup,  Family, Friend & Neighbor Caregiver Support, Parent Aware coaching and early learning scholarships in nine Minnesota counties.

According to a LWV news release, the March 28 forum “raised a number of issues that, while not only specific to Hubbard County, have a great impact on our local economy.”


Among the problems in the area are a shortage of licensed providers, the high cost of starting a child care business and the lack of substitutes to cover for providers when they are sick, etc. “These are problems that affect all of Hubbard County, not just parents or guardians of young children. Everyone’s quality of life is impacted when quality child care is not available,” says LWV.


LWV is nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government. Its mission is to work on vital issues of concern to members and the public. Direct any questions about LWV activities, events or on how to join by emailing

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