This month, the Census Bureau learned a tough lesson. The agency has hired about 635,000 census workers to knock on doors of families who have yet to return their census forms. But, in order to get the census badge and a bag with the census logo, individuals initially needed only to fill out a form with their name and social security number.
Frank Kuni, a registered sex offender in New Jersey using an alias (Jamie Shepard), was going home to home interviewing people on behalf of the Census Bureau when he was recognized during an interview by a mom home alone with her toddler. She called the police and he was arrested. But, the fact that he was hired to knock on doors on behalf of the Census Bureau raises serious questions about the background check process.
Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said yesterday at a Fairfax County, Va., event, “People should know that the person coming to your door won’t harm you.” The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) agrees. But, according to NACCRRA Executive Director Linda K. Smith, “That’s exactly how parents feel about child care providers. They want to know that their children are safe and that no one with a history of violent crimes is licensed to care for their children.”
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the law that allocates funds to states for child care, does not require a background check for child care providers. The law leaves it to the states. Only half the states require a background check including fingerprints – the only way to make sure that convicted felons are not licensed or paid to care for children with federal funds.
“An alias is just too easy as Frank Kuni demonstrated,” said Smith. “Incomplete background checks leave the door open for every parent’s nightmare,” Smith said. “Only 10 states require a comprehensive check: a fingerprint check against state and federal records as well as a check of the state child abuse registry and sex offender registry.”
Legislation is pending in Congress to require background checks including fingerprints. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) has introduced S. 2903, the Child Care Protection Act; Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) has introduced H.R. 3287, the Child Care Accountability and Responsibility Act (the CARE Act), and Representative Andre Carson (D-IN) has introduced H.R. 3315, the Child Care Criminal Background Check Act.
“This incident should be a wake-up call to Congress,” said Smith. “Just as Census Bureau Director Groves has expressed concern for the safety of the public, we hope Members of Congress will be concerned about children’s safety – particularly now that it is crystal clear how easy it is to use an alias. A name check alone just doesn’t work. Dr. Groves doesn’t need background check legislation to ensure public safety, but over 11 million children under age 5 depend on Congress to ensure their safety.”