Press Releases

It’s Time to Protect Children in Child Care: New White Paper Released by Child Care Aware® of America

July 17, 2012

Arlington, VA -- Child Care Aware® of America released a new white paper today outlining the elements of background checks needed to ensure that children are safe in child care settings. The report includes state-by-state background check requirements for child care providers, including fingerprints, criminal history and child abuse and sex offender registries.

“Parents want their children to be safe in child care,” said Ollie M. Smith, Interim Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America. “Our national polling shows that parents logically assume that states conduct a background check before licensing child care providers or before allowing individuals to work in a child care center.”

”The reality is that only 10 states require a comprehensive background check before allowing individuals to work in child care centers. Only nine states require a comprehensive check before granting a child care license to people operating child care programs out of their homes,” said Smith. “While most providers are well-meaning adults who love caring for children, studies have shown that some people with a history of violent offenses apply to work in child care. Some of them are actually hired.”

The white paper cites three studies with regard to the importance of requiring a background check. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study matching Social Security numbers to state employment databases revealed 24 cases where registered sex offenders were working in child care programs. In selecting 10 cases to review in more detail, GAO found that at least seven cases involved offenders who previously had targeted children and in three of the cases, the offenders used their access to children at the programs to offend again.

A 2010 U.S. Department of Justice report found that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) processed 77,213 criminal history background checks on volunteers who sought to work with children. NCMEC found 1,409 individuals had committed an offense barring their ability to volunteer with children.

A study of the Federal Child Safety Pilot Program found that of 30,000 background checks conducted on individuals who sought to volunteer with children, 6.4 percent had criminal records.

“Parents are challenged in conducting a thorough background search on their own,” said Smith. “Even the most well financed parent would still be limited to commercial databases, which the Department of Justice has said are incomplete.”

According to the report, 49 states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes authorizing national fingerprint-based criminal history background checks on one or more categories of people who work or volunteer with children. The average processing time for a live-scan (digital fingerprint) submission is one day. On average, states charge about $20 for the screenings with the FBI charging between $18 and $24. 

“It’s a modest cost when compared to the risk involved where children could be abused or worse by someone who is hired to ensure their safety,” said Smith. “Children should be safe in child care.”

Child Care Aware® of America (formerly NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies), is our nation's leading voice for child care. We work with more than 600 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To learn more about Child Care Aware® of America and how you can join us in ensuring access to quality child care for all families, visit us at