New fingerprinting requirement for workers at child care facilities in effect

alopez@macon.comJanuary 18, 2014 

As of Jan. 1, Georgia law requires anybody hired at a child care facility to undergo a background check that includes fingerprinting.

Before this year, new hires at child care facilities were only required to pass a state background check, which left a loophole for convicted felons from other states.

During the 2013 legislative session, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, authored House Bill 350, which outlined the new requirements.

“I have a granddaughter that is currently in day care,” Peake said, “so I wanted to make sure that employees that are working with her are vetted properly and thoroughly, for her and other children’s protection.”

Federal fingerprint background checks are required for anybody hired after Jan. 1 to work at a child care facility. Employees hired before that will have until 2017 to have a background check done. In addition, all employees will need to have updated checks every five years.

The Department of Early Care and Learning reached out to Peake and to state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, after a convicted felon was found running Progressive Christian Academy, a child care facility in Macon that has since closed.

The case pointed to a shortcoming in the existing law, said Reg Griffin, chief communications officer for the Department of Early Care and Learning.

Griffin said the new fingerprinting requirements received broad support from child welfare agencies across the state.

Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina already had the requirements in place.

House Bill 350 passed easily in the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in May.

The Department of Early Care and Learning expects about 20,000 of the 60,000 child care employees in Georgia to have fingerprint background checks this year, Bobby Cagle, commissioner of the department, said in a news release.

The GBI awarded a company called Cogent the contract to provide electronic fingerprint services for applicants in the state and set the price at $52.75. Fingerprinting locations and hours can be found at www.ga.cogentid.com.

Each child care facility is allowed to choose whether it will pay the fee or pass it on to employees.

At a Warner Robins day care center, an affiliate of the Child Care Network, director Ophelia Payne received an email from her corporate headquarters reminding her of the new requirements. Employees will incur the cost of the background check, headquarters decided, but may receive an advance to get it done.

At Bright Star Learning Center in Macon, Emily Schroeder, co-owner and director, said the facility will most likely split the cost with employees.

“It seems like the fairest way to go,” Schroeder said.

Peake said the state Legislature had to balance the additional costs associated with the more intensive fingerprint background check with public safety.

He said he didn’t want to burden small businesses, but he wanted to move as quickly as possible to protect the state’s children.

“I’m proud that we have taken measures to make sure our most vulnerable citizens, our children, are safer,” Peake said, “and that parents can feel comfortable that employees who work with their children have been given a proper background check.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

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