FRANKLIN, Ind. | Child-care providers across Indiana are scrambling to find money to pay for broader criminal background checks of employees and educate staff about new rules to improve safety and prevent child abuse ahead of a July 1 deadline.
Indiana lawmakers this year beefed up requirements for home-based day cares, licensed centers and ministry-based child cares that accept vouchers to help pay tuition costs for low-income families this spring. The changes come a year after a 1-year-old drowned in an Indianapolis church's baptismal font during day-care hours.
Barbara Newton, director of First Presbyterian Preschool in Franklin, said she supports the tougher standards.
"It's expensive, but the cost would be even greater if you did nothing," Newton told the Daily Journal. "Some parents are forced to seek out the cheapest options for child care, and this will help make sure the cheapest option is also a safe one."
The changes come at a cost for day cares, which must fingerprint all employees and conduct detailed FBI background checks. Those costs will rise to about $40 per person, up from the $7 charged for limited state background checks used in the past. The FBI checks must be done every three years.
Melanie Brizzi, child care administrator for the state's Bureau of Child Care, said digital fingerprinting and national criminal checks will prevent day-care operators from unwittingly hiring people with a history of felonies or child abuse in other states. The national screening also checks for aliases, nicknames and other spellings of names.
"The national check has several advantages. No. 1, it's consistent for all provider types. And using the national FBI database captures criminal behavior from other states outside Indiana," Brizzi said.
Current day-care employees have a year to get fingerprinted, but new hires must go through the screening before they come in contact with children.
Newton said she plans to find the money to screen all 30 of her employees immediately.
"We want to get this off our to-do list," she said.
Other changes include increased training for day-care workers to help them recognize signs of abuse and new rules requiring infants to use sleep sacks instead of blankets in cribs.
Elisabeth Jones, interim director of First United Methodist's Learning Tree child-care classes, said she supports the new standards.
"In general, it's a good move for the state of Indiana to keep all of us on a level playing field in regards to who is taking care of our children. The national background checks will help with that," she said.
She acknowledged that the cost of the background checks is a concern at her 30-employee operation but said the additional outlay will be worth it in terms of safety.
"I feel like the more systems in place to regulate these things, the better the state can watchdog whichever facilities aren't compliant with the safety of our kids," Jones said.