Deeper background checks are on the way for childcare providers in New Hampshire. According to a report from New Hampshire Public Radio, State Governor Maggie Hassan recently signed a piece of legislation that both "expands" and "streamlines" the state's policies.
Regarding expansions, the newly approved bill will require all licensed daycare facilities to screen their employees for incidents from the past five years. The checks will include criminal histories, sex offender registries, and history of child abuse and neglect. The criminal checks will now include a fingerprint screening through the FBI—a step that was not required by previous legislation.
The bill also includes a contingency for when the print sets that daycares send to the FBI are, for whatever reason, unusable. After two unsuccessful attempts with the fingerprint check, the state may "accept police clearances from every city, town, or county where the person has lived during the past five years." Such an address-based criminal screening strategy would be a smart one as it helps ensure smarter coverage during the background check process.
Also new are the consequences for daycare facilities wishing to hire certain felons. The state now has the legal right to withhold any and all funding from institutions that hire convicted murderers, violent criminals, or offenders guilty of sexually related felonies.
The requirements laid forth by the new law apply to employees or any other individuals who will be "responsible for the care of, or having regular contact with children." The checks are not required as a pre-employment measure, but must be on file before the employee starts caring for children.
All licensed and registered day care facilities must also hand over information about their employees to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, including current names, birth names, birthdates, and addresses from the past five years. It's unclear whether or not childcare businesses will need to run address history checks to get that information, or if the bill will hinge on an honor system where applicants and employees are expected to provide accurate address information.
The "streamlining" part of the legislation will make it easier for day care workers to change jobs or move from one facility to the next without having to repeat the entire background screening process. When someone passes the state-required checks, they will receive a card verifying that state law has vetted them. This card is valid for five years and will help to cut down on unnecessarily repetitious background screenings.
This new policy seems like a smart compromise between adding new security and protection to New Hampshire's childcare industries while also respecting the industry's workers. While five years might be a little long for the background check cards to stay valid—especially with children's safety at stake—the precise nature of the controls and the promise of consequences for daycares that fail to run them form the backbone of a strong policy. The new law goes into effect in October.