The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) announced its support for legislation introduced today by U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) entitled the “Child Care Protection Act of 2009.” This bill requires a comprehensive background check (state and federal fingerprint check, sex offender registry check, and check of the child abuse and neglect registry) for all licensed, regulated or registered child care providers. Under the bill, any provider who refuses to consent to a criminal background check, makes false statements on a background check, is a registered sex offender, or has been convicted of a violent crime will be unable to work for or operate a child care program or receive child care subsidies.
“Parents want their children in safe child care,” said Linda K. Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA. “One way to help ensure children’s safety is to require a comprehensive background check of child care providers. We commend Senator Burr for his commitment to children and making their safety a top priority through the introduction of the ‘Child Care Protection Act of 2009’.
NACCRRA has released several reports that examine state laws and regulations with regard to child care. Among the safety standards examined in these reports is whether or not states require a comprehensive background check of child care providers. Based on the results, NACCRRA found that only 10 states require a comprehensive background check. Only 15 states require a check of the sex offender registry. And only 25 states conduct a state and federal fingerprint check.
“Our national parent surveys show that more than 80 percent of parents assume all child care providers have had a background check,” said Smith. “But, the reality is that most states do not conduct a comprehensive background check. One way to ensure that children are safe in child care is to weed out individuals with a history of violent convictions. That can only be done by a fingerprint check and a check against existing registries of individuals with a violent past. Otherwise, parents don’t know for sure and children are at risk.”
Today, more than 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care arrangement every week. On average, children of working mothers spend 36 hours every week in child care. Studies repeatedly have shown that high-quality child care - care that provides a loving, safe, stable and age-appropriate environment - helps children enter school ready to learn. Yet, less than 10 percent of the nation’s child care is of high-quality.
To help ensure children’s safety and improve the quality of child care, NACCRRA recommends that Congress require all paid child care providers who regularly care for unrelated children to undergo a comprehensive background check and have at least 40 hours of pre-service training and 24 hours of ongoing training. NACCRRA also recommends Congress establish minimum health and safety regulations and enforce them through quarterly inspections. Should states fail to set minimum protections for children and conduct regular inspections, NACCRRA recommends that Congress authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold funds from these states.