Missouri House votes to extend child care worker background checks

The Missouri House of Representatives has voted to increase protection for children in the state’s childcare facilities by broadening background checks on those facilities’ workers.

Representative David Wood (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

Versailles Republican David Wood told his House colleagues the state is not conducting background checks including fingerprints of those who come from out of state and apply to be childcare providers.

“We want to make sure our children in Missouri are safe.  When you have a childcare provider and currently a fingerprint background check is not required so we’re only checking inside the state, so we could have a violent offender coming from another state crossing in and working in our childcare facilities … this is just a good safety issue for children,” said Wood.

Wood said his House Bill 2249 would put Missouri in compliance with federal regulations.  Missouri is currently operating under a federal waiver, and once that expires on September 30, Missouri will lose about $5-million in federal grant money.

Unless and until it passes, he said parents don’t have much ability to know the background of those workers taking care of their children.

“These smaller providers actually have more restrictions than the larger ones do.  They do the fingerprint background checks, but those that are receiving state money and federal money in the state of Missouri aren’t required to right now, so this fixes that,” said Wood.

Applicants undergoing background checks would be allowed to work in child care facilities while the check is being conducted, but could not be left with children unsupervised during that time.  A worker would have to undergo a new check every five years.

The bill’s requirements would not apply to facilities not getting state or federal money, to those taking care of children within three degrees of relation to themselves, or those who have four or fewer children in their care.

The House voted 131-4 to send HB 2249 to the Senate.  The same language is included in another bill, House Bill 2042, which has also been sent to the Senate.

The language of HB 2249 is also found in House Bill 2042, which reforms the sex offender registry.

See our story on HB 2042 by clicking here.

Bill would ease background checks on potential in-home care workers

The state House is again being asked to make it easier for people with minor criminal offenses to apply and be hired for jobs in the in-home care field.

Representative Cody Smith (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

When an applicant undergoes a background check, any finding results in a review that can take multiple weeks.  That can include crimes that occurred decades ago, or that would be considered minor or unrelated to security and healthcare.

According to House Bill 1350 sponsor Cody Smith (R-Carthage), more than 75-percent of reviews result in waivers that would clear the applicant to work, but reviews take so long that most applicants find other jobs during the delay.

“Once the provider wants to hire them, they simply can’t wait the amount of time it takes to get through this process – can’t wait that long to get into the workforce and start making money,” said Smith.

Smith said the issue creates problems not just for applicants but for in-home care providers, many of whom are short-staffed.

“That creates hardships for the providers, their clients, and the folks that would like to have those jobs,” said Smith.

Elisa Pellham, a provider with Integrity Home Care and Hospice, told the House Committee on Health and Mental Health Policy that many potential employees would come from other health industry jobs in which they don’t face these “very burdensome” checks – nursing homes, hospitals, or mental health facilities.

“So they really question why in home care do I have to then fill out this lengthy form that, again, may take five to six weeks to get the results back, so it is burdensome on the employee and burdensome on that provider,” said Pellham.  “Again they’ll just maybe go back to a health care entity that doesn’t require it and then home care, could lose a really good caregiver or nurse.”

HB 1350 would change background check requirements to remove those minor or irrelevant violations from being barriers to employment in in-home care positions.

The legislation would specify what offenses a person must have been found guilty of or pleaded guilty to for their employment by an in-home service provider to be illegal.  Such employees could also not be named on the Department of Health and Senior Services’ employee disqualification list, the Department of Mental Health’s disqualification registry, or the child abuse and neglect registry.

Smith said if his proposal passes the public should not be concerned about who could be hired.  He said background checks would remain very stringent, “To make sure that [in-home care providers] are qualified to be in homes caring for people who are often times very vulnerable.”

The committee has not voted on HB 1350.