Keeping Kids Safe: Navigating the Childcare Environment in a Challenging Time

Childcare services are critical to a healthy society—not just for protecting and raising children but also for preserving economic stability. The Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns made it obvious how many parents in the economy rely on reputable third parties to ensure they can go to work. Even several years later, the aftershocks of these disruptions continue—especially in the face of the sharp increase in demand for childcare in many age groups.

Two recent stories—a federal watchdog identifying state-level shortcomings and a crisis of availability in another state—highlight today’s challenging environment. More importantly, each provides some important insights and lessons for veteran childcare operators and newcomers just beginning their businesses. Let's take a closer look.

Federal Government Notifies Nevada of Childcare Screening Shortcomings

Federal law mandates background checks every five years for participants in childcare organizations that receive money through a block grant program to the states. To ensure compliance, the Office of the Inspector General for the federal Department of Health and Human Services periodically audits the states to evaluate performance. In 2022, the OIG investigated a sample of 30 agencies out of 344 in Nevada.

The findings revealed stark deficiencies and uncovered that Nevada did not follow up or verify if providers had conducted the necessary checks. 10% of the agencies the OIG audited did not perform required background checks for more than half a dozen employees. After identifying numerous lapses, the OIG recommended changes which the state accepted—but these lapses present an essential point for operators.

It is imperative to understand the rules around childcare background checks, but even more important are real considerations around safety—you cannot always trust someone based on credentials and an interview. A strict screening process should be a selling point for a childcare agency, rather than a burden only followed because the state demands it.

Childcare Systems Across the Country Remain Strained

Maintaining a proactive attitude towards screening is even more important as the industry continues to face post-pandemic difficulties. In Michigan, many parents now struggle to find childcare opportunities, facing lengthy wait lists or long commutes to alternate locations. A general lack of childcare facilities is ongoing nationwide, coupled with a lack of qualified staff to operate existing facilities.

These pressures could create a desire to cut corners—to circumvent hiring regulations that might pose barriers to attracting and keeping applicants engaged. However, childcare providers can't cut corners even in this challenging environment—it would mean an unacceptable risk for those in their care.

Instead, it is important to make the best of the current environment by streamlining your hiring processes. Vetting products that meet regulations for detail and scope that yield faster results can simplify the process, so applicants don't face week-long waits to discover if they will get the job or not. 

Maintaining a Safe, Effective Framework for Childcare

The knowledge of relevant regulations and a commitment to going above and beyond for safety are essential in today's childcare environment. Developing a policy powered by background checks for childcare agencies that yields fast results will be key to quickly acquiring staff in a challenging labor environment. With demand at high levels and unlikely to subside anytime soon, childcare operators must remember one thing above all: safety is paramount, and in this industry, there is no room for cutting corners.

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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