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Deal Signs Bill to Improve Child Safety

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HB 350 strengthens background checks on workers in child care industry

Today at St. Andrews Montessori School in Macon, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 350, legislation that requires Georgia's 6,000 child care facilities to undergo national fingerprint-based background checks for employees. Previously, only state and local background checks were required, thus allowing people with criminal backgrounds in other states to be cleared to work in Georgia child care programs.

"Georgia children are our most precious assets," said Deal. "This legislation puts criminal checks in the hands of law enforcement agencies rather than private companies, ensuring that those processing the checks actually have the information and tools needed to protect our children."

An employee hired after January 2014 will undergo a fingerprint-based background check, and all current child care employees must be fingerprinted no later than Jan. 1, 2017. This timeline will lessen the burden on child care providers. Normal industry turnover is expected to expedite this process and a recheck is required every five years.

"In Georgia, we entrust the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of our youngest learners to the employees of child care facilities daily," said Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle. "Now we all will know with greater certainty that those working in the facilities are worthy of that sacred trust. With overwhelming support in the General Assembly and Governor Deal's signature, HB 350 becomes a landmark child protection law for the state."

The bill allows day care centers to immediately hire a short-term employee after a satisfactory name-based Georgia records search. This provision allows child care providers to employ staff quickly if needed to ensure proper child ratios and oversight for safety reasons.


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