Butler County, Kansas Case Proves Importance of Background Checks for Child Caregivers

By Michael Klazema on 1/8/2015

When a single mother in Butler County, Kansas required a caregiver for her two-year-old son, she called upon friends to give her recommendations. Most parents would have done something similar since the best way to find a business or vendor you can count on is often to ask the people you trust most. Her error, then, was in putting too much stock in the recommendations she received. In other words, she didn't run background checks or interview her chosen caregiver enough to prevent disaster.

After the mother kept hearing the same name over and over, she decided to leave her son in the care of a 45-year-old grandmother who ran a daycare out of her home. Like many people who operate home daycare centers, the woman was an unlicensed caregiver. That didn't raise a red flag: most states allow unlicensed caregivers to operate daycare facilities out of their homes, so long as there aren't more than a small handful of children being cared for at any one time.

What did raise a red flag was when the two-year-old boy came home with second and third-degree burns on his lower body. Allegedly, the boy's caregiver was spraying him with extremely hot water in an attempt to potty train him. She was arrested for the offense and charged with felony child abuse.

As shocking and heartbreaking as the incident in Butler County was, it could have been prevented. In this situation, the single mother hired the abusive caregiver mainly on tips from friends, who said the woman was great with kids. She didn't ask the caregiver to provide a background check, and she certainly didn't look into whether or not the caregiver should have had a license from the state in order to watch her son. Background check regulations and licensing requirements for various professions differ per state.

In Kansas, home daycare regulations are a bit stricter than they are in many other states. Specifically, the state requires that home caregivers obtain licenses through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in virtually all cases. There are a couple of exceptions, like if the children being cared for are related to the caregiver, or if the caregiver is only watching one or two kids and only doing so for fewer than 20 hours a week.

According to a report from The Wichita Eagle, neither of those exceptions was met in this case. The boy was at daycare for considerably more than 20 hours a week, and he was not related to the caregiver.

The case highlights the vigilance with which parents need to screen the people they trust as caregivers for their children. Criminal background checks and license verifications should be on every parent's mind as they look into taking their child to daycare facilities, especially if the daycare operates out of someone's home. Thorough reference checks, detailed interviews, and visits to the daycare premises are also good ways for parents to assess who is or is not a fit caregiver.

As for unlicensed daycare providers, some of them are great and completely trustworthy. As a bonus, leaving your kids with these unlicensed providers is often cheaper than taking them to full-fledged daycare businesses. However, these individuals are not licensed care providers, and parents should take extra steps to make sure they are trustworthy. In other words, parents should exercise twice as much vigilance when hiring, screening, and researching independent and/or unlicensed caregivers.


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