New law requires more background checks
A new state law, effective January 1, 2013, will make it mandatory for all child care workers to get a background check prior to their hire date.
The new law comes from House Bill 737, an act to strengthen the laws regarding the safety of children in child care facilities.
According to Lori Watson, public information officer with the Department of Health and Human Services, all employees of child care facilities have been required to complete the Criminal Records Check process since 1996. This bill will require this to take place prior to date of hire.
"It tightens up the rules a little, but our primary concern is to ensure the safety of the kids," Watson said.
A person cannot watch the children if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony involving child abuse or neglect. The state can prevent someone from providing care because of alcohol or drug use, or because of mental or emotional impairment.
This bill will also expand the federal check requirement to all employees. Previously, only employees that have lived in North Carolina for five years or less have been required to submit to federal background checks.
"We always cooperate with doing what we need to do. We abide by all laws and changes that come through," said Lori Delfosse from the Little Red School child care center in Forest City. "I think it is a good change. Tightening down on security in our schools is important. We want the best teachers to care for the youngest students. Any extra background checking is fine with me."
Ellen Lovelace, director of Kids R Us in Rutherfordton, also agrees that this is a positive step.
"It is a positive thing. When it comes to people's children, you can never be to careful. I would rather know up front before I put that person with someone's child, including my own. Anything that keeps the children safe and makes them more secure is good," Lovelace said. "I understand that it does take a while for those background checks to come back, so if you need someone, it does slow down the process of filling that spot. But it is definitely a positive thing."
Anna Carter, deputy director of the division of child development and early education, says that no one incident prompted these changes to occur.
"No specific incident prompted the change in the law," Carter said. "But we knew that times have changed and we needed to provide more rigorous criminal background checks for those individuals who are caring for such a vulnerable population."