Virginia is to expand it’s child care background checks as it faces federal penalties. Parents and relatives will be far more comfortable with the credibility of providers afforded by the initiative. Irrespective of whether the provider is home based, the church or a day care center. The changes in respect of child care background checks were approved by Virginia’s lawmakers this session as a federal mandate hung over their heads. A September deadline has been put in place for registered day care workers. Finger printing is now required as part of the child care background checks. The data is recorded with the Dept. of Social Services and falls under the umbrella of a ‘National criminal history background check’. A Virginian Advocacy group puts forward that this is no more than a basic requirement in fine tuning child care protection. Further that license exceptions hadn’t been addressed for some 20 years.

The exceptions though within Virginia’s day care system gives rise to some contention. Finger print background checks are required by only certain facilities in order to obtain licenses. The smaller home based day care and church centres aren’t included currently. Around 70% of childcare facilities in Virginia are licensed. In house care with fewer than four children are exempt registration. Action over the child care background checks is required in order that Virginia doesn’t lose federal money. If the rules failed to be updated Virginia faced the loss of millions of federal funding. The millions contribute to Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy Program. This program supports low income families, in 2016 over 38,000 children saw this benefit. The Federal Childcare and Development Block Grant awards Virginia around $110 million yearly. President Obama, in 2014, addressed the law which governed the funding. The law had been dormant since 1996. This then kick started the new safety requirements and child care background checks for providers. States had their hands forced in that non compliance meant forfeiture of part funding. Virginia potentially saw a minimum of $2.7 million withdrawn. However certain providers currently with exemption, such as religious centers, contest the revisions go to far.

A director of the Old Dominion Association of Church Schools sees it as an unfair principle. In placing requirements on those not in receipt of federal funding. Also that it is a principle that sets a dangerous precedence in imposing blanket requirements on all in order to support others. Around $20 million is received in federal funding by schools operated by the church in Virginia. However some receive no funding whatsoever. The sponsor of the bill says he “philosophically” stands with the churches. It’s seen as problematic as it’s seen as dancing to the tune of Federal government and if not then funding is lost. This, in turn, affects children and the risk of being subject to unhealthy environments without supervision. There is a caveat within the bill which requires the issue to be considered again next year. If the federal regulations are dispensed with by the new administration then Virginia will follow suit.

However they are in favour of a bill to establish minimum safety requirements for childcare programs. This includes a care giver on site who is CPR certified. Ensuring providers have emergency protocols and safe sleep protocol in place. This bill also reaffirms license exemption for religious facilities. These most recent changes are indicative of a continuing push for increased safety and accountability by day care advocacy groups in Virginia. A new law (“Joseph’s Law”) came in to being following the death of a child in a fire at a day care facility. This law now makes it easier for prosecution and brings with it increased penalties on illegal operators.

A Virginia Beach woman was charged, under this new law, with neglect and felony child abuse following the death of a 4 month old girl under her care (unlicensed) last year. The Voices for Virginia’s children are committed to having well being and child safety highlighted in Virginia. Also pro active steps by social services to encourage development as opposed to financial pressure against the state. Child care background checks can only elevate the credibility and integrity of day care and early child care providers.

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