The OIG Calls for Mandatory Background Screening of Child Care Providers
In November 2013, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report that showed deficiencies in the screening of licensed child care providers. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) administers the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), which provides financial assistance for child care each month. In accordance with federal regulations, States must certify that they have in effect, under State or local law, requirements designed to protect the health and safety of children receiving CCDF subsidies and to monitor these requirements. To read the full-length report, click here.
For this study, the OIG included all 51 States in an initial survey about child care licensing and health and safety requirements. For the next phase of the study, they selected five States (California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas) representing 35% of all children in the CCDF program in fiscal year 2009 for review. They then obtained information on the results of activities to monitor child care providers through documentation review and discussions with State staff.
OIG Study Finds Inadequate Background Screenings
Federal law requires States to have health and safety requirements in three areas: (1) the prevention and control of infectious diseases, (2) building and physical premises safety, and (3) minimum health and safety training. While States complied with having requirements in these three areas, States’ monitoring requirements did not always meet ACF’s recommendations for background screenings or the recommended standards for unannounced inspections. Although all States reported screening child care workers, many reported not checking sex-offender registries in according with ACF’s recommendations. Deficiencies in background screenings ranged from overdue screenings to unscreened persons living in the house.
Based on the study’s findings, the OIG recommends that the ACF:
- Seek authority to develop health and safety standards
- Ensure that States’ requirements meet these standards
- Develop requirements for States to conduct mandatory background screenings and periodic inspections
- Conduct periodic reviews of States’ compliance with their own licensing requirements related to minimum health and safety standards
- Ensure that State plans comply with health and safety requirements
The Need for Comprehensive Background Screening for Child Care Providers
In 2010, the OIG identified provider noncompliance with health and safety requirements in Head Start, another ACF program. 21 of the 24 Head Start grantees that the OIG reviewed did not comply fully with federal or state requirements to conduct background screenings, recurring background screenings, checks of child care exclusion lists, or checks of child abuse and neglect registries or with requirements to document those checks. In the current study, only 15 States reported performing checks sufficient to be considered comprehensive background screenings for both center-based and family home providers. The sources least often checked by States were FBI criminal records and sex-offender registries. As the OIG recommends in the current study, mandatory comprehensive background screenings of both licensed and license-exempt providers would help protect the safety and well-being of children under care. Indeed, the ACF stated it has already taken initial states in meeting these recommendations through its Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking, which was published on May 20, 2013.
Child Care and Development Fund: Monitoring of Licensed Child Care Providers (Report). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. November 2013.
Review of 24 Head Start Grantees’ Compliance with Health and Safety Requirements (Report). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. December 2011.