Why Background Checks Are Required for Childcare
Whenever the summer season is on the horizon, excitement starts to buzz. Kids will be getting out of school, great weather is on its way, and endless possibilities for summer camp fun are waiting to be taken advantage of. As a parent, the prospect of sending kids to sleepaway camps, sports day camps, and any kind of daycare program in between is part of the excitement too—because it means that even though your kids are out of school, at least they’ll be in someone else’s hair!
No matter what kind of camp or childcare program you send your kids off to, however, there’s always a certain degree of caution that should go along with it. After all, do you really know who’s going to be looking after your kids for you? Without doing your own exhaustive research about the camp or program, you likely don’t.
Luckily, the state of Missouri realizes the inherent risks posed with just anyone being permitted to care for kids under eighteen years of age. That’s why they’ve enacted legal parameters for criminal background checks for these kinds of business owners and staff members. Even so, as the parent, it’s up to you to make sure you understand what these background checks consist of, and your right to demand they happen. Because your efforts could help to keep your children safe while they’re out of your care.
The Requirements of All Childcare Providers
By definition, a childcare provider in the state of Missouri is a person or business who is licensed, regulated, or registered to provide childcare, including the members, managers, shareholders, directors, or officers of these entities. Many childcare-related businesses aren’t allowed to operate without these licenses and registrations.
There are a lot of specifics to these legal items, but one of the most important ones that you as a parent want to pay attention to is the requirement of criminal background checks. All related childcare staff members or people employed by the childcare provider for compensation of some kind whose activities involve the care or supervision of children or other unsupervised access to children are required to obtain a criminal background check. This can even include contract employees, self-employed individuals, and volunteers.
Such criminal background checks include:
- A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint check
- A search in the National Crime Information Center’s National Sex Offender Registry
- A search of the Missouri state criminal registry
- A search of the Missouri state sex offender registry
- A search of the Missouri state child abuse and neglect registry and database
The Missouri state checks often include delving into records going back as far as five years, and can even optionally include checks for other states the employee in question has lived in.
Why These Background Checks are Important
It’s easy to assume that the owners and operators of your son or daughter’s summer camp or daycare facility have done their due diligence and taken every precaution they’re able to when it comes to protecting your kids. They’re running a facility for kids, after all. Doesn’t that mean their first priority should be the attendees who are under their care?
While we agree that it absolutely should, it’s important to realize that these types of organizations and facilities are first and foremost businesses. They operate to make money, because if they don’t, they’d cease to exist. So often, their owners are going to make some decisions and selections that benefit their bottom lines just a little better. Now, this doesn’t mean all camps and daycare programs are bad—in fact, most of them are probably pretty great (especially if your kid tells you so!). But the reality is, sometimes it’s cheaper for these employers to hire staff quickly and at low rates. And it saves them money to not pay for background checks for every employee they hire. As such, some of them skirt around the rules and just don’t do it for as long as they’re able to get away with it.
And that’s where major problems can sometimes sneak their way in. If these background checks aren’t thoroughly performed, your children could be exposed to care from adults who aren’t properly equipped to care for them. In some cases, such adults may legally not even be allowed to be around them. They might be child sex offenders, or have a history of child abuse or neglect. And these types of people can put your kids in some very real danger.
Great candidates for employment come in all shapes and sizes. Someone who looks excellent on a résumé and even better in person may have a dark history they’re actively trying to hide. And sometimes, without receiving a proper background check, their employer can never know the danger they’re actually exposing the kids in their care to.
Your Right to Demand Proof of Background Checks
Technically, childcare facilities and organizations in the state of Missouri are legally required to request a background check for any relevant employee prior to their official employment. While this is helpful, it does still leave room for risk. That’s because employers only need to request the background check prior to hiring the employee. They don’t need to receive or review it for any red flags before officially offering the person the job. On top of that, the employee only needs to pass the FBI fingerprint check before they can begin working in the presence of children.
Pending the completion of the rest of the criminal background check, these employees are legally allowed to work the childcare duties required of them by their job, so long as they are supervised by another childcare staff member who has already received a positively qualifying result from their own background check.
If that seems a bit crazy to you, you’re not alone! While Missouri state laws have some excellent protections in place for childcare providers, this one comes with a loophole that feels a bit unsettling. So this is when your rights as a parent can come in handy.
When you’ve signed your child up to attend a summer camp or any other kind of registered daycare or childcare facility, you have every right to ask for proof from the facility’s owners or organizers that they have requested or received the required background checks for their relevant employees. And if they refuse to provide you with that confirmation, that should be a red flag all on its own.
It may feel like overkill to be “that parent.” Being the one requesting this type of information might get you some raised eyebrows from other parents, or even an eye-roll from your kids. But you should never feel unjustified in taking affirmative action. And that’s because these laws and regulations exist for a reason: to protect your child. If you’re leaving them in the care of others, you have every right to ensure that those “others” are equipped to watch over them in your absence. Because if they’re not, it can lead to dangerous situations of neglect, abuse, injury, and even mental and emotional damage. That’s something no child wants their summertime memories to consist of.
And if you suspect that your child has suffered some kind of neglectful abuse or injury while at their summer camp or other childcare facility that could have and should have been prevented, make sure to hire the right Missouri childcare injury lawyer to help you seek the justice your child deserves.