Unlicensed Preschools Not Required to Conduct Background Checks in Oregon

By Michael Klazema on 8/14/2012

Part-time preschool programs in the state of Oregon are not required to obtain a license in order to operate, and therefore, are not subject to the same rules as licensed preschools, such as conducting background checks on their staff . A part-time preschool is defined as one that cares for children four hours or less per day, and carries few requirements compared to licensed preschools and daycare centers. A few of these part-time schools include some Head Start programs, parent-cooperatives, and church-based preschools. Instead of licensing, a part-time preschool is only required to be recorded with the state. Licensed preschools must have staff members trained in child first-aid and CPR, must have food handlers’ training, and be trained in recognizing and reporting child abuse. They may also receive unannounced inspections from the state. With the programs that are simply recorded rather than licensed, there is no one “looking at them except the parents,” according to Kathleen Hynes, legal and compliance manager for the Oregon Employment Department’s Child Care Division.

Instead of having the same requirements as licensed childcare programs, the state’s 330 recorded programs operate on an honor system. Two promises they make upon being recorded is that they will perform background checks on all volunteers and staff , and post a notice announcing they are recorded with the Child Care Division and are legally exempt from being licensed. However, there is no legal requirement to adhere to these promises, and there is no one to check if a program has done them. Also, there is nothing in writing stating how extensive of a background check should be completed.

While Hynes contends that recorded programs can be “great,” and licenses do not guarantee the quality of a program, parents should do their homework. Some of her suggestions for parents considering a recorded versus licensed program include calling the state’s child care division and asking if a program has a license or is exempt and if it is operating legally, asking the school what type of background checks they perform and their criteria for hiring staff. She believes they should also ask about first-aid certifications and food preparation. Even though there is currently not much oversight for the state’s recorded programs, a recommendation made by a consulting group calls for the state to require licensing for recorded programs. However, as this solution would require more funding for enforcement, it is unlikely to pass anytime in the near future. Parents are advised to practice due diligence in the meantime.

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