NJ moves toward background checks for family day care providers
Criminal history background checks would be expanded to cover family day care providers under legislation that’s been unanimously approved by state lawmakers and likely to soon reach Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.
Such background checks are required at child-care centers but not at smaller, home-based providers that typically care for three to five children.
The checks would be paid for by the state Department of Children & Families, not the individual providers. They would cover current and prospective family day care providers and their substitutes or assistants, plus any household members 18 years or older.
Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, said the checks will assure parents their children are safe.
“I think it alleviates a lot of concern. I think that at any point in time where you leave your child in the custody of others, I think there’s always a concern,” Lampitt said. “And when they know that these measures are in place, that they can go to work, they can go along with their business with an assurance that their children are safe.”
The change is being sought in part because starting Oct. 1, a new federal Child Care Development Block Grant requirement mandates checks for providers whose clients get federal child-care subsidies. But the proposal would apply the requirement to all providers, regardless of whether clients are subsidized.
Nancy Thomson of Ewing-based Child Care Connection, a registering agency for family child-care homes, said the absence of criminal background checks has been a big gap in the services.
“I think most parents assume that because they have that state registration certificate in their home that somebody’s done a background check. And that hasn’t been the case,” Thomson said.
The checks will disqualify a provider if there have been convictions for any drug-related offense from the prior five years or any convictions for child abuse, sexual assault, murder, stalking, kidnapping, arson, terroristic threats, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary or domestic violence.
“This is a logical bill that protects our youngest children. It also gives parents really peace of mind,” said Cynthia Rice, a senior policy analyst for Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
“This bill is a long time coming,” Rice said. “To think that we have 2,000 registered family child-care homes in our state, many which whom take care of our youngest children. Many have infants and toddlers in their home and yet this criminal history background check was not required.”
The bill, S651/A4262, was approved Thursday by the Assembly by a 74-0 vote. The Senate passed the bill 37-0 in December, but the legislation was amended in January so will need to return to the Senate for another vote before it could reach Christie.