On November 19th, 2014, President Obama added his signature to the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, officially making the legislation law. According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services, the Block Grant Act was the first major overhaul of child care legislation since 1996. In addition to outlining how child care providers can secure federal funding, the bill identified health and safety requirements for providers, including more "comprehensive" background checks.
When it was moving through the legislature, the Block Grant Act had bipartisan support and sponsorship. The bill's journey through the system was spearheaded by two United States Senators—one a Republican from North Carolina (Richard Burr) and one a Democrat from Maryland (Barbara Mikulski). Now that the law has been implemented for several years, Burr is trying to gauge its impact and effectiveness.
According to a report from The Ripon Advance, Burr recently participated in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Based on some of the testimony heard at the hearing, the Block Grant Act of 2014 has been incredibly beneficial so far, especially through its implementation of background checks.
One of the people Burr questioned during the hearing is the executive director of the Maryland Family Network. With that witness, Burr discussed a provision in the Block Grant Act that requires childcare workers to undergo thorough background checks through the National Sex Offender Registry. Previously, there had been no national law requiring sex offender background checks at that level. When the Maryland Family Network went back through records of child care providers, the organization found 80 sex offenders. Since the Maryland Family Network has 26 family support centers, 13 child care resource centers, and a system that helps 39,000 parents a year "find safe child care" for their families, the organization's findings may have helped to make the entire state of Maryland a safer place for child care.
According to analysts, the testimony from the Maryland Family Network's executive director proves two things. The first is that sex offenders are currently working and seeking employment in child care. The second is that they can be tracked down and removed from their positions with the appropriate implementation of background checks. Burr and other advocates hope to continually ensure that the policies laid forth by the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 will eliminate predators from the child care industry and make kids safer across the nation.