ATLANTA -- Georgia bans sex offenders from working or volunteering at child care centers. But it does not require that anyone check any further than Georgia for that criminal history.
And some centers are exempt from checking at all.
“We would like to see all adults who have contact with kids have a background check,” said Pat Willis, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, an advocacy group. “Some of the complaints we’ve heard is we (Georgia) only look at the state registry, whereas some people have a record outside of Georgia.”
The General Assembly will probably tackle the matter again this year before the session ends in April.
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Georgia is an outlier among the states. The vast majority of them require that criminal history checks for employees and other staff members be fingerprint-based and be conducted in both national and state databases, according to a 2011 federal survey of state laws.
Georgia law specifies the fingerprint test only to get a license to open a day care center and, if it’s someone different, the daily on-site director. But even for them, it’s a check only with the GBI.
Under the code, it is Georgia’s intent to “authorize and facilitate, but not require” fingerprints of child-care workers to be checked against state and federal criminal record databases.
Willis also pointed out that places providing day care can apply for an exemption from even the state background check if they keep a child less than four hours a day, no more than twice a week, or less than eight hours per week.
A fingerprint law in line with national standards was proposed to the state House in 2009 and got a favorable committee report. But, like most bills, it never made it to the full House.
The Georgia day care industry is taking credit for defeating the measure. Per the Georgia Child Care Association’s website, that is one of their “past legislative successes.”
GCCA did not respond to multiple calls for comment on the industry perspective on a criminal background check law.
A draft state law that will address background checks and day care is expected to be published soon, according to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the agency that regulates the industry.
To contact writer Maggie Lee, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org