WDAY VIDEO: Fingerprint regulation creating hurdles for ND daycares

Staff with children

FARGO -- Childcare providers across North Dakota are worried.

"We are close to crisis mode," CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley Robin Nelson said.

Dozens of parents rely on the club for after-school childcare, but a new rule regarding fingerprinting is threatening the childcare workforce.

Workers need to be fingerprinted and background checked before working with kids.

In the past, they could work under supervision while their fingerprints were processed, but not anymore.

The Boys & Girls Club isn't alone in its concerns.

Several other daycare's say they've had similar issues.

One director said she'd like to talk about the new regulations, but couldn't because she has to be in a classroom all day until she can find more staff.

"For a little bit of perspective, for every childcare worker that I don't have, fourteen children are not served," Nelson said, "Those fourteen children usually have two parents who are in the workforce. So that's up to twenty eight people that can't work."

Another daycare provider said he waited two months for fingerprints to be processed on a current teacher.

Nelson said the problem isn't with the requirements, but the process.

Getting a fingerprinting appointment can take over a month, and even longer to process. This means new hires have to accept not being able to start for months.

Nelson explained the slowdown is partially because of an under-funded and under-equipped Criminal Background Check Unit in Bismarck.

The problem is only compounded by an already sparse workforce: the unemployment rate in North Dakota is a microscopic 2.6 percent.

"With the workforce shortage it's hard to look at somebody and say 'you may be able to work in four to six weeks'," Nelson said.

Nelson and other childcare providers are urging people to contact legislators to increase adequate funding to the Department of Human Services, and to upgrade infrastructure to allow fingerprints to be sent electronically.

Only a month into the new regulation, Nelson said time is more important than ever.