New child care laws will cost local providers

By CLAIRE MOORMAN
Herald Staff Writer

New child care laws that went into effect statewide July 1 spells change for local child care centers.

The Indiana General Assembly voted in April to require national background checks and fingerprinting of all employees and volunteers at licensed and unlicensed day care centers. By July 1, 2014, all existing and new employees must have completed the checks.

Prior to the law, day care providers needed only to perform the more limited state background checks, but according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, national checks will provide more security as they are more likely to catch any job applicant’s criminal past in other states.

The new law may present a challenge to local providers because the cost of these checks, including fees paid to the FBI and Indiana State Police, will not be covered by the state.

Donna Sturgeon, education and volunteer services director for Tri-Cap out of the Jasper office, said she fears that the background check requirement will have a deep financial impact on the organization’s five Head Start child care programs, one of which is in Jasper.

“It is going to be a burden. We have approximately 45 staff. As far as volunteers, if they volunteer for us at least eight hours per month, we’re supposed to have background checks done on them too, which could really hurt us,” Sturgeon said, adding that Head Start uses up to 50 volunteers for certain events. “Our Head Start program relies on volunteers. We have interns that come in from different colleges.”

The $40 checks must be conducted every three years, and the state has identified several types of criminal histories that would prohibit an employee from child care. Any employee with a history of sex offenses, misdemeanors related to the safety of a child, major felonies or any offense that is more than 10 years from its final disposition cannot be hired at a day care center.

Sturgeon said she is concerned that some of the volunteers the program has counted on in the past will choose not to return because of the new law.

“I’m afraid we’re going to lose volunteers because they don’t want to have to go through that process,” she said, but she added that for regular staff members, the checks are a benefit.
“We don’t want to have someone come in who has a background that the state background checks may not catch,” Sturgeon said. “I think that’s a great part of it.”

At A Kid’s Place day care in Huntingburg, the national checks will have some financial impact, but it will be mitigated by the low employee turnover and a limited number of volunteers. Director Andrea Tooley said she is pleased with the new requirement.

“It will cost us some money. We have 33 employees. Our initial fees to get everyone checked out are going to be a little costly, but it’s worth the peace of mind,” Tooley said. “I’ve never thought that the limited criminal background checks were enough. I don’t think you can put a price tag on security. This is definitely a better way to check out people’s backgrounds.”

The new law also steps up the amount of training that unlicensed facilities must provide for their employees and that licensed centers must provide to keep their certifications. The state now mandates that a primary caregiver who deals with infants be trained on safe sleep practices and that volunteers complete training on child abuse detection and prevention.

At A Kid’s Place, staff care for eight children younger than 12 months, and those employees must complete yearly courses about how to properly place a child in a crib and what materials should be kept out of the child’s sleep area to prevent sudden infant death syndrome.

Tooley added that her employees receive additional education for other child health issues throughout the year.

“They receive training on health and safety,” she said. “All of my staff get CPR training and training on hand-washing — when to do it, how to do it. There are signs posted above all the sinks.”

At Head Start, staff and volunteers who help transport children to and from the centers are required to take bus monitor courses.

“They have to have 15 hours of training per year, but we exceed that. When the (staff) comes back in August, they receive all types of training. They have CPR and first aid. We go over all the requirements for serving the meals and cleaning protocols,” Sturgeon said. “We want to make sure our kids are safe.”

Contact Claire Moorman at cmoorman@dcherald.com.




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