State officials said Wednesday they expect to get an one-year extension in their overhaul of criminal background checks for at least 16,000 employees of licensed childcare centers.
The new rules stem from a 2014 federal law.
They are supposed to be in place by Sept. 30.
But Jenna Conway, assistant state superintendent for early childhood education, said the state has sought, and expects to get from the federal government, a one-year extension to implement the requirements.
Under current rules, individual directors of childcare centers and Head Start leaders are responsible for their employees undergoing criminal background checks. The federal law will put the state Department of Education in charge of overseeing the checks, and makes those reviews more comprehensive.
The reviews will include fingerprint searches with the FBI as well as checks with the National Sex Offender Registry, Louisiana Sex Offender Registry and the Louisiana Child Abuse and Neglect Registry.
In addition, job applicants will face background checks in previous states where they worked.
Once employees are cleared for work, approval would be good for five years. Those certifications are open ended now.
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The rules apply to licensed childcare centers regardless of whether they get federal dollars and anyone who takes public funds for child care assistance.
They cover staff, volunteers and contractors who work at the centers and individuals who work or live at registered home-based providers.
Others include employees of public schools that operate early learning centers, teacher preparation programs and students and Louisiana Department of Health workers who provide services to children.
"This is a pretty significant change in how this works," Conway told the Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council.
The council advises the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which is set to tackle the issue during its Aug. 15-16 meeting.
The state department won authority to oversee criminal background checks through a 2017 state law sponsored by state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport.
The federal law is aimed at ensuring that adults working with children have not committed violent crimes, child abuse or sexual offenses.
"The intent obviously to keep all the kids safe," Conway said. "This is not optional. And there are sanctions involved if states do not follow this rule very carefully."
The state gets about $80 million per year in federal early childcare grants.
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Council members praised the aim of the law but complained about some of the details, including costs.
Each application for a criminal background check will cost $88-$93, including a $15 administrative fee for the state Department of Education, $26 to do a Louisiana criminal history check, $12 for the FBI to do a federal criminal history review and $15 per state to review activities in previous residencies.
Melanie Bronfin, a member of the council, said Congress needs to know the impact the law is having on Louisiana child care operators.
"I think the law is an excellent thing," Bronfin said. "It is just the way it is being implemented. It is an unfunded mandate."
Bronfin is executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children in New Orleans.
Applications for criminal background checks will begin March 1, 2018.
State officials also plan webinars, information sessions around the state and a conference hosted by the Child Care Association of Louisiana to get the word out between August and November.