More and more daycare and preschool programs around the country are being called upon to ramp up their policies to keep kids safe. In 2013, Georgia approved a measure that required all daycares and childcare programs in the state to require FBI fingerprint background checks. That requirement, which mandated the multi-jurisdictional criminal checks on top of existing local and state criminal screenings, went into effect in January. Now Louisiana is joining Georgia in the movement to protect children: the state recently passed new licensing regulations that will, among other things, call for more in-depth background checks for daycare workers.
According to a report from the Associated Press, the new regulations were passed by Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The new policies went through the board vote uncontested, and will now apply to all daycare facilities, Head Start programs, and preschool programs in the state of Louisiana. The new regulations will call for fingerprint-based criminal history checks of all employees and volunteers at childcare facilities. In addition, the package will institute new minimum staffing ratios and new training standards and requirements for all workers.
While the new childcare regulatory policies passed easily through the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the road for getting those policies signed into law has been anything but brief. It was all the way back in 2012 that the Louisiana Department of Education began looking seriously at the licensing guidelines for childcare and early education centers. The AP report says that, originally, the department was looking for a way to better prepare children for kindergarten.
Collaboration between Department of Education officials, health experts, safety inspectors, and the owners and operators of daycares throughout Louisiana eventually brought about the drafting of these new licensing regulations. In other words, the new rules were a long time coming, and required a lot of work from a lot of different people.
While the battle to get these rules negotiated and passed may have been long, slow, complicated, and frustrating for those involved, though, the ultimate result will unquestionably be a positive one. Daycare centers and preschools can be a mixed bag. Some are staffed by the kindest, most trustworthy, and most well-trained people in the world; others are staffed by people who are careless and clueless when it comes to caring for large groups of people. Worse, some centers have unknowingly hired sexual predators looking for their next victims.
Louisiana's new guidelines should help to correct all of these issues. Not only will they block out criminals and offenders, but they will also ensure that only well-qualified people are allowed to work at daycare centers. Other states might be smart to adopt similar policies.