New Hampshire is changing its regulations concerning background checks for employees of childcare centers. This change will align the requirements more closely with the federal guidelines. As a result, employees will have to wait for their background checks to pass before they can begin working in these facilities.
Federal regulations have long required childcare centers to wait for the results of a background check before allowing an employee to begin work. However, New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has frequently provided these employers with waivers, allowing them to bring on new employees immediately. However, the DHHS restricted these employees, requiring constant supervision when working with the children until their background checks finished.
In a letter recently sent to childcare providers, the DHHS stated that it would no longer provide these waivers starting December 15, 2022. The DHHS explained that it intended to “maintain compliance” with federal regulations by removing these waivers. According to the department’s spokesperson, this move has come in response to the federal government’s threat of a $700,000 penalty if it failed to comply with its rules. In addition, the government emphasized that childcare facilities must complete background checks before allowing employees to work with the children.
Though childcare providers have acknowledged that it is crucial to run background checks to protect the safety of the children in their care, many have expressed growing concerns. For example, many worry that the changes may leave already short-staffed centers unable to operate due to delays in the process. These providers have stated that in some cases, the state’s required background check process can take six weeks or more to complete.
However, the agency’s spokesperson has acknowledged this delay and claims it has taken steps to improve its background check process. These steps include changing from performing checks by hand to a more efficient web-based system. This change would reduce transcription errors and false rejections, providing faster results. Despite these reassurances, childcare providers insist they have yet to see
Background checks for childcare personnel are extensive. They require fingerprinting, federal and state criminal records checks, child abuse and neglect reports, and searches of federal and state sex offender registries. The DHHS has indicated that it shares concerns over the changes, assuring facilities it will continue working to streamline and improve its process. It also intends to work with the providers, helping them understand the online process and finding alternative options for steps such as fingerprinting.
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