State case illustrates national problem

Published 9:16 am Monday, June 21, 2010

I was deeply troubled when I read that a Plymouth, Minn., man charged with possession and distribution of child pornography has worked and volunteered in a number of child care facilities in Minnesota. As a mother and grandmother, it concerns me that an individual — now charged with a horrible crime — had numerous opportunities to be in contact with small children.

Although it is unclear to me whether or not this individual has a history of criminal activity, because the state of Minnesota does not require child care providers to undergo a comprehensive background check, including fingerprints, no one knows if this individual has a criminal past. In fact, no one can know the full criminal history of the providers currently caring for Minnesota’s children.

Although many parents assume that child care providers have had a background check, particularly in licensed care, the reality is that only half of states require a fingerprint check and only 16 require a check of the sex offender registry. The best way to ensure children are safe and protected from predators and felons in child care is to require comprehensive background checks of child care providers. A comprehensive background check means a check of federal and state fingerprints, as well as checks of the child abuse and sex offender registries.

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Minnesota’s children in child care deserve to be in safe, felon-free settings that promote their healthy development. I urge you to help protect the children in Minnesota. Consider enacting legislation that will require comprehensive background checks of child care providers. By taking steps today, you help ensure the safety and well-being of Minnesota’s children in the future.

Linda K. Smith

executive director

National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies

Arlington, Va.