FARGO — Starting Oct. 1, a federal law will go back into effect requiring new employees hired at licensed child care facilities to complete an initial in-state or FBI fingerprint-based criminal history check before they begin working.
Hired employees who pass the first check will then have to work under direct supervision until the entire background check is complete, which can include criminal record checks from other states or tribal regions.
North Dakota's human services department initially put the federal rule into effect in October 2018, but issued a waiver in November 2018 allowing employees to work under direct supervision while their initial background check was being processed.
For day care providers, this new rule of postponing an employee from working can cause issues with staffing and how many children the facility can provide for at any given time.
“I don’t think there is a program in the state that is questioning the necessity of a background check,” said Beth Wolff, president of the North Dakota Child Care Providers Inc., a non-profit organization promoting child care and parental care.
But, Wolff said, if child care providers can’t have their employees begin working until a background check is completed, they will have to cut down on how many children they can take care of to be in compliance with their license, which directly affects families.
In addition, Wolff said the initial period of an employee working under direct supervision can limit the scope of their work at the facility, especially if they were hired for a specific duties within the facility.
The North Dakota Department of Human Services has always completed fingerprint-based background checks, said Tara Reed, of the department’s Criminal Background Check Unit, but the difference with the new requirement — which stems from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 — is when employees begin working.
Reed said if a person is hired at a day care provider after Oct. 1, they will not be able to begin work until they complete the initial in-state or national FBI background check.
The second portion of the background check only applies if the person has lived in a state other than North Dakota for the previous five years, Reed said. In that case, they will have to work under direct supervision until the process is complete.
Wolff said the time frame for completing a background check concerns her and other day care providers.
Reed said background checks can be completed in about five to seven days for an individual who’s lived only in North Dakota. But, she said, the turnaround time becomes more complicated when requesting background information from other states and it depends on how quickly those states process requests.
Since the waiver was issued in November 2018, Reed said the department has worked on streamlining the process to ensure the turnaround time is efficient. She said the department began picking up criminal records from the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation directly to save time, consolidated two application forms into one authorization form and simplified the results memo that went out to daycare providers.
Reed said that while there may some “aches and pains” with the new requirement, the department is comfortable with current process in place.
Minnesota authorities could not be reached for comment on Friday, Sept. 27, and messages left for Minnesota child care associations were not immediately answered.