by Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Staff Writer
A letter to Austin (MN) Daily Herald sheds light on a national problem of lack of background checks for child care providers, so claims the author.
In her letter, Linda K. Smith, Executive Director, National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, was “deeply troubled” after reading that a Plymouth, Minnesota man who was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography had worked and volunteered in a number of child care facilities in Minnesota. She was concerned that an individual charged with a horrible crime had numerous opportunities to be in contact with small children.
Smith wrote that since the state of Minnesota does not require child care providers to undergo a comprehensive background check, including fingerprints, no one knows if the accused individual has a criminal past, and no one can know the full criminal history of the providers currently caring for Minnesota’s children.
Smith also added that while many parents assume child care providers in licensed care have had a background check, “the reality is that only half of states require a fingerprint check and only 16 require a check of the sex offender registry.”
Smith believes “the best way to ensure children are safe and protected from predators and felons in child care is to require comprehensive background checks of child care providers. A comprehensive background check means a check of federal and state fingerprints, as well as checks of the child abuse and sex offender registries.”
She urges the state ensure the safety and well-being of Minnesota’s children in child care by enacting legislation that will require comprehensive background checks of child care providers.
Minnesota is not alone in dealing with problems concerning background checks of child care providers. Recently, the Governor of Florida signed a new law strengthening background checks for caregivers. Starting August 1, the law will require workers who care for children, the elderly, and the disabled in the state of Florida to undergo stricter background checks.
The law follows a 2009 series by the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that exposed gaps in Florida’s background check system. A six-month investigation by the newspaper found convicted felons with records for rape, child abuse, and murder had been hired as employees of day care centers, assisted living facilities, and home health care agencies.