FORT MYERS: To keep children safe, Florida law requires daycare centers to conduct criminal background checks on its workers. The state reviews those checks multiple times a year at licensed facilities; but it can't review them at unlicensed faith-based daycares. Monday afternoon, a committee of child care experts met in Tallahassee to talk about this issue.
It recommended the state change the law, so the state can inspect those records. Until that happens though, no one will be checking.
"Right now, someone can write a letter saying I guarantee everyone's been screened, and we have to take them that on faith, and that's just not good," said Kathleen Reynolds, the director of Southwest Florida's Early Learning Coalition.
Up until two months ago, her agency was the only one in Southwest Florida that reviewed the accuracy of these background checks. Now the state has stepped in, saying they can no longer do that.
"If we know that it's the single biggest violation in this state, improper background screening, why would we not want to put every security measure in place to keep kids safe? Particularly, since taxpayers are paying for their care," said Reynolds.
She says the proof that checks are needed, is in the numbers.
In Southwest Florida alone, violations of proper worker screening in unlicensed faith based daycares doubled between 2008 and 2009.
"I don't think this is incredibly challenging stuff. Do we value out kids and are we willing to make sure that every place we put them is a safe place. To me, that's a yes or no answer," said Reynolds