Kids’ caretakers unsure about bill giving access to criminal histories
Legislation allowing parents to access information about the criminal histories of day-care workers is drawing mixed reactions from western Nevada County child-care providers.
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, would give parents who request it information from the state Department of Social Services on a worker’s criminal conviction history.
SB 1335 is scheduled for a hearing by the Senate Public Safety Committee Tuesday, representatives from Dunn’s office said Thursday.
A handful of local child-care providers said state and federal regulations already provide plenty of safeguards prohibiting individuals with criminal backgrounds from serving as day-care providers.
Nora Turpen, a teacher at The Country Preschool in Grass Valley, an all-day facility for children 2 to 5 years old, said the staff of 10 teachers must complete extensive background and fingerprint checks from the state Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as a state licensing board in Sacramento.
Some worry that applicants with old offenses committed decades ago, such as smoking pot, would be unfairly judged today as child-care providers.
Making such information available to parents would be a violation of privacy, Turpin said, adding that most parents probably wouldn’t avail themselves of the service.
“Most parents, I think, want the quickest, cheapest drop-off point,” she said. “I think the majority would want to turn a blind eye to criminal records.”
Parents can easily find out if teachers are licensed and other important information. “Our lives are an open book,” Turpen said.
The legislation was spurred by an investigation by the Orange County Register, which in a March series detailed how as many as 640 convicted criminals worked for Orange County licensed child-care facilities.
Most of Dunn’s district is in Orange County. Members of his office staff said the legislator was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Bryce George, director of Peace Lutheran Preschool in Grass Valley, said she’d be concerned if the person’s criminal record included crimes against children.
“As a parent, I would want to know,” she said. It would also depend on how old the offense was.
“I feel it’s an invasion of privacy,” said Kathleen Reiswig, co-owner of Monalee’s Pre-School in Nevada City. “Some of their (transgressions) may have nothing to do with their duties as a caregiver,” said Reiswig, whose facility provides for 55 children in morning and after-school programs.
“I think it’s unnecessary. A lot of it has to do with judgment of that person’s character,” she said.
If the legislation passes, Reiswig said, it may place a stigma on child-care workers and deplete an already limited pool of candidates to work in the industry.
“It’s hard to find people to do this because the pay is so low,” she said. “The people you find are people who love children.”
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