Deal expands child care background checks
by Mark Andrews
May 03, 2013 | 1173 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This week Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 350, requiring Georgia’s 6,000 child care facilities to undergo national fingerprint-based background checks for employees. Previously, only state and local background checks were required, which could result in allowing people with criminal backgrounds in other states to be cleared to work in Georgia child care programs.

“Georgia children are our most precious assets,” Deal said in a press release. “This legislation puts criminal checks in the hands of law enforcement agencies rather than private companies, ensuring that those processing the checks actually have the information and tools needed to protect our children.”

Lynda Sorenson, director of Tomorrow’s Child Learning Development Center in Cartersville, said she supports the legislation, but is concerned over the price of national fingerprint-based background checks.

“I’m all for the fingerprinting. All of us as directors and administrators have to do it as is,” Sorenson said. “... It’s [about $50], and I think maybe they could lower the cost on it for a potential employee.”

She added, “Right now we have to have background checks for all of our employees; we just don’t have to go one step further with the fingerprinting, but I definitely don’t think it would hurt.”

According to the release, “An employee hired after January 2014 will undergo a fingerprint-based background check, and all current child care employees must be fingerprinted no later than Jan. 1, 2017. This timeline will lessen the burden on child care providers. Normal industry turnover is expected to expedite this process and a recheck is required every five years.”

However, the bill does allow day care centers to immediately hire a short-term employee after a satisfactory name-based Georgia records search.

“This provision allows child care providers to employ staff quickly if needed to ensure proper child ratios and oversight for safety reasons,” the release states.

Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle said the legislation will improve child protection in the state.

“In Georgia, we entrust the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of our youngest learners to the employees of child care facilities daily,” Cagle said in the release. “Now we all will know with greater certainty that those working in the facilities are worthy of that sacred trust. With overwhelming support in the General Assembly and Governor Deal’s signature, HB 350 becomes a landmark child protection law for the state.”