FARGO — Child care providers in North Dakota are breathing a temporary sigh of relief after the deadline for complying with a new federal regulation, seen by providers as a hindrance to hiring enough day care workers, was extended.
The regulation initially went into effect Oct. 1, requiring licensed child care providers to receive fingerprint results for background checks of new employees before the employees could begin working with children. But federal officials have now waived the requirement through Sept. 30, state officials said in a letter to child care providers.
The waiver allows new day care employees to begin working under direct supervision before their fingerprint-based background checks are complete.
“The short-term solution provided by the state and federal government is a welcome relief and we look forward to discussing long-term solutions,” Dan Polasky, owner of Wonder Years Childcare in Grand Forks, said in a news release.
Prior to the new regulation, when newly hired day care staff were fingerprinted, they could begin working under supervision while waiting for a background check to be completed. Under the new regulation, employees can't work with children until fingerprint results are available, a process that can take months.
Local day cares have supported the new regulation, which is meant to improve child safety, but they fear that delays in background checks will negatively affect the workforce and child care availability.
Robin Nelson, chief operating officer of the Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley, has said the background check process, coupled with the low unemployment rate and workforce shortage in the region could create a staffing shortfall.
In a letter to child care providers dated Thursday, Dec. 6, the North Dakota Department of Human Services said it's “exploring various ways to create more efficiencies over the next nine months to further improve the background check process.”
The fingerprint regulation is a result of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.