Protecting Missouri’s Youngest Children
Comprehensive Background Checks for Child Care Providers
Jessica Seitz, Missouri KidsFirst
In Missouri there are over 300,000 children under six with working parents. During the day, these children stay with family and neighbors or in one of the almost 8,000 home and center-based child care facilities across the state. Children may spend eight to ten hours every day in the care of others and their parents should be secure knowing that their child is in a safe environment while they are at work.
Right now, lawmakers are considering legislation that would require comprehensive background checks to be conducted on all child care providers and their employees. House Bill 2249, sponsored by Representative David Wood and Senate Bill 985, sponsored by Senator Jeanie Riddle would improve the way Missouri’s child care facilities are required to screen their employees’ criminal records, helping to protect children from coming into contact with adults with record of sexual or violent offenses.
The Benefits of a Comprehensive Background Checks
A comprehensive background check requires the following:
- National FBI criminal history records using fingerprints;
- National Crime Information Center (NCIC) National Sex Offender Registry; and
- Missouri criminal, sex offender and child abuse and neglect registries.
The data contained in criminal registries varies in accuracy and extensiveness. Here’s why passage of HB 2249/SB 985 is an improvement over current Missouri child care safety requirements:
This legislation requires employees of child care providers to undergo NATIONAL FBI fingerprint background checks.
Current Missouri regulations require only a check of the state child abuse and neglect registry and the state criminal history records. These registries include Missouri data only, meaning that child care providers would not have access to the criminal histories of individuals who come to Missouri from other states. This leaves child care programs vulnerable to hiring someone who has committed violent or sexual offenses against children. By requiring a check of national records, programs will catch individuals with criminal histories in other states who apply for positions at their facilities.
This legislation requires national and state FINGERPRINT background checks.
Name-based background checks have limitations. For example, individuals can have very common names or use aliases and fake Social Security Numbers. The registries may also contain misspellings or other inaccuracies. Using a name-only check can allow an individual to circumvent a criminal history check and be approved to provide child care where a fingerprint check would have revealed a criminal record.
The legislation requires checks of both the national and state sex offender registries.
Serial sex offenders look for easy access to kids and current law does not require a check of either registry. A 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examined ten cases where convicted sex offenders were given access to child care facilities. At least seven of those cases involved offenders who previously targeted children and in three of the cases, such individuals used their positions to reoffend. One case cited in the report was in Missouri where police identified a maintenance worker previously convicted of child molestation working at the child care facility. They found no evidence that a background check had been done on him or any of the other employees.
Keeping Kids Safe
We already require FBI and state fingerprint checks of every newly hired person in a Missouri public school who may come into contact with children, including teachers, substitute teachers, bus drivers and other school personnel. These policies are in place to protect against anyone who has committed a crime against children from being employed in our schools. Our youngest children deserve that same level of protection. Programs that do not conduct comprehensive background checks offer more opportunities for perpetrators to form relationships, test boundaries and engage in dangerous behaviors with children.
Parents deserve to know that their children are safe in child care—that the people their kids come into contact during the day are not sex offenders, not violent offenders and have no convictions of child abuse or neglect.
To learn more about protecting children from abuse visit:
- Missouri KidsFirst: Ending Child Abuse Now
- 5 Steps to Protecting our Children (Darkness to Light)
- Comprehensive Background Checks for Child Care Programs (Child Care Aware Missouri)