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Background Checks

Day Care Reform Should Include Background Checks

Several states have recently enacted legislation to put some state controls on private, unlicensed day care centers.  Typically, the legislation being passed limits the ratio of children to staff members.  Caregivers are also required to take a minimum number of hours of annual continuing education and to notify the state if a child dies or suffers serious bodily harm while in their care.

What’s clearly missing from this sort of legislation is any requirement that the operators of private day care centers, many of which are operated by churches, conduct a background check on staff members.  The private day care business is one of the most unregulated industries, and yet it serves one of the most vulnerable populations imaginable in our society – small children!  Common sense would seem to dictate that states require at least a criminal court check on anyone seeking employment as a staff member of any privately run day care business that receives state funds, regardless of whether it’s operated by a church or not.  The safety of children clearly supersedes any separation of church and state argument.

Unlicensed day care providers include registered ministries, legally licensed exempt homes, and legally licensed exempt centers.  Licensed day care providers include centers and homes.  Illegal day care providers operate without a license.  But the more salient point, it seems to me, is that no legislation governing any of these operations requires the operator to do any sort of background check on people they employ!

Obviously, no parent should take their child to an illegal day care service, but even those with a license are not required to insure the safety of the children in their care by conducting a background check on their employees.  Just to illustrate the scope of the problem, since 2009, in the State of Indiana alone, there have been 31 deaths of small children in all three types of day care centers.

One can only wonder how many of those tragic deaths could have been prevented with a legally required background check.