SB12: Lawmaker wants to close background check loophole for child care workers

By Caleb Larkin
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – A North Ogden lawmaker has filed a bill to tighten the background check process for people applying for child care positions.

CHRISAM

SB 12, Child Care Amendments, will require child care providers to pass criminal history checks and allows the Department of Health to investigate any exempt employee in child care. The law currently exempts child care workers who are employed in government or private health care facilities and who take care of children less than four hours a day or an a sporadic basis

The Legislature’s Human Services Interim Committee found that many child care providers did not pass a more extensive background check. The bill specifically aims to prevent any who recently moved from other states with criminal records relating to child abuse.

“Many are able to get jobs in child care and could perhaps have had previous child molesting charges or convictions from other states,” Sen. Allen M. Christensen, the bill’s sponsor, said.

“We are never going to catch everyone. People are still going to use false names. But this tightens the law a little bit.”

The bill came out of a Legislature interim’s Child Care Oversight Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the treatment and wellbeing of children. The committee decided to take action and amend the law after a study of child care workers with criminal backgrounds.

“We are trying to provide for a more thorough check of background of individuals working in child care. Anything and everything we can do for the kids,” Christensen said.

Nearly all amendments target exempt child care employees to require individuals to pass a thorough background check process. The amendments intend to prevent those with any misdemeanors or felonies from providing child care.

“The intent of this bill is to require all license exempt child care providers to have their criminal background checks done by the Utah Department of Health, which conducts the background screenings for licensed providers. The goal of the bill is to protect all children, whether they are in licensed child care programs or license exempt child care programs,” said Sheila Walsh-McDonald, the Legislative Liaison for the Utah Department of Health.

Walsh-McDonald also commented that the bill had originated from former Rep. Ronda Menlove in the 2014 legislative session and already passed the House. The Department of Health supports most of the amendments to the bill as they, “clarified which child care providers needed to have background checks completed by the Department of Health.”

Christensen took initiative and described he was “happy to take on the task to make the changes to the bill” when the committee discussed the report findings during the interim between sessions. Lawmakers start the next session on Jan. 26.

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