Children’s Safety Sacrificed in Rush to Pass a Bill

What parents need to know

Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

Many of you, my subscribers, are parents and teachers and understand the importance of the requirements of those who work with children to keep them safe. Apparently, some in the North Carolina legislature do not understand the importance of creating barriers to keep predators away from our children or reporting of COVID cases in child care centers. Read on to learn more about what happened and how to make sure your child’s center follows reasonable safety practices. Please share this information with anyone you know who is a parent.

In North Carolina, as in many other states, parents are having great difficulty both working and monitoring their children as they participate in virtual school. This is especially problematic for the parents of young children. One solution is for community groups to set up socially distanced spaces with individual computers and staffing where students can come to the center for the day to complete their virtual schooling with supervision. YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs are already working on this concept, but additional community groups are needed to fill the void. 

In response to this need, the North Carolina legislature passed HB 1105 last week. The bill was meant to distribute Coronavirus federal dollars to many departments addressing issues brought about by the pandemic.  One of the things the bill does is relax the safety precautions that owners must take in order to run a childcare center. While the child care situation requires creative thinking, the safety of children cannot be sacrificed. 

Would you send your child to a center where there are no background checks on employees, no one on-site is trained in CPR or First Aid, and they are not required to report COVID-19 cases?

HB 1105  allows community groups to run child care centers without the usual safety checks that are required of licensed centers. Would you send your child to a center where there are no background checks on employees, no one on-site is trained in CPR or First Aid, and they are not required to report COVID-19 cases? Those are loopholes that the law left wide open. Representative Julie Von Haefen says the bill was “hastily put together” and spoke to these loopholes on the house floor. However, amendments were not allowed in the House discussions. On the Senate side, amendments were tabled. It will be up to the community groups to voluntarily follow through, but background checks and CPR courses cost money, something that is in short supply.

So where does that leave parents? Parents must be diligent in asking all of the right questions before enrolling their children in one of these community-based programs. There is no oversight of these centers, so parents will have to take the owner’s word. At this point, parents already have so many worries, the last thing they need is for the state to allow possible pedophiles to be working in childcare centers.

As someone who ran an in-home child care, taught in public schools and developed an on-campus tutoring program at a private school, I can tell you that background checks are the lowest bar to set for any group taking care of children. When we started our on-campus tutoring program, we ran background checks across the country and made sure that all tutoring rooms had a window and were in areas of the school where people walked by frequently. We checked references deeply and diligently. Children are the most susceptible to abuse, and we simply cannot relax the most basic safety protocols.

It is hard to understand why the state would not require child care centers to report Coronavirus cases. This goes beyond children’s safety to the safety of their families and the larger community. Everyone needs transparency when it comes to this virus so they can make their own decisions about how to handle exposure. 

If this information concerns you, then call your state representatives and senators and demand they amend this bill. And if you are a parent looking to find a safe child care situation for your child, make sure to ask about background checks, first aid and CPR training, and COVID reporting. It’s the least any responsible organization can do to protect our most valuable asset, children.

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