TRENTON, NJ - Legislation Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Muoio, Pamela Lampitt, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Raj Mukherji and Angelica Jimenez sponsored to require family day care providers to undergo criminal history record background checks received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor's desk.
"It is imperative that anyone who has access to young children in a family day care setting should undergo a criminal background check," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "This crucial change in current law will address a gap and will now help keep children safe."
In order for the state to meet a new federal Child Care Development Block Grant requirement that will become effective on October 1, under the bill (A-4262), the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is to require the following individuals to undergo a state and federal criminal history record background check as a condition of the issuance or renewal of a family day care provider certificate of registration:
- each prospective or current family day care provider;
- any assistant provider, substitute provider or alternate provider of the prospective or current family day care provider;
- and any household member of the prospective or current family day care provider who is 18 years of age or older.
"When a parent enrolls their child in a family day care, it is assumed that all persons who are working or around the children were vetted via background checks just like at any other school," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "This legislation puts in place the necessary protections for our children."
"Above all else, parents want their children to be safe at day care, and the state has a duty to do everything possible to give mothers and fathers some peace of mind," said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). "Requiring background checks for family day care employees will ensure that individuals with a history of endangering children or otherwise breaking the law are not entrusted with the responsibility of caring for children."
"For many working mothers and fathers, taking a child to day care is the only option," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Parents should never have to feel uneasy about the character and judgment of the people taking care of their kids while they're at work."
"Just like the teachers and school bus drivers who have to take care of children during the day, family day care providers should have to undergo a background check," said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). "It's important for New Jersey to have the same standards for all those we trust to look after our kids."
The bill (A-4262) specifies that DCF may not issue a certificate or renewal of registration to a prospective or current family day care provider, and is to revoke the existing registration held by a current family day care provider, as the case may be, if the provider, or any other person, identified above:
- refuses to consent to, or cooperate in, the securing of a criminal history record background check;
- knowingly makes a materially false statement in connection with a criminal history record background check;
- is registered, or is required to be registered, on a state sex offender registry or repository, or on the National Sex Offender Registry established under the "Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006"; or
- is found by a criminal history record background check to have a record of conviction, either in New Jersey or in another state, for any of the list of crimes and offenses enumerated in the bill, which includes, but is not limited to: endangering the welfare of a child, sexual assault, murder, kidnapping and domestic violence.
Under the bill, if the criminal background information indicates a disqualifying conviction, the DCF would be required to provide written notice to the family day care provider, the family day care sponsoring organization, and the person who was the subject of the criminal background check (if the person is someone other than the provider).
The family day care provider, or other person with disqualifying convictions, would have 14 days after the date of such written notice to challenge the accuracy of the criminal history record information. If no challenge is filed, or if a challenge is denied, the commissioner would be required to notify the family day care sponsoring organization that the family day care provider's registration has been denied or revoked on the basis of disqualifying criminal history record information.
The bill was approved 39-0 by the Senate, and 74-0 by the Assembly in March.