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Change in Oklahoma policy tightens background checks for day care workers

OKLAHOMA CITY – Changes are happening right now that will soon affect day cares all over the state.

Oklahoma is changing the requirements for employee background checks.

Kids spend hours playing and learning with their day care instructors.

The state is now going further to make sure those instructors have no criminal record.

Memory Taylor said, “I don’t think you’ll find anybody that says, ‘Oh, no, you’re being too overly cautious on checking someone’s background.”

Taylor is the director of Agapeland Learning Center.

Her concerns on the new law grew after reading more about the requirements.

She said, “It was like, ‘Wait a second. How come we didn’t know this before?’ And that’s when the panic set in.”

Instead of paying $19 for a state criminal history check that goes back three years, letters sent to day cares across the state say it could cost $53 for new workers to scan their fingerprints for a nationwide background check.

Taylor said, “You take on the cost and say they don’t work out, then you have to hire somebody else in the next month or two, and you’re going to another $53.”

Teachers say that’s a high price for applicants as well.

Cheyenne Lewis said, “I think the money is going to be hard to come by.”

Department of Human Services says the point is not to hurt day cares.

Mark Beutler, with the Department of Human Services, said, “This was basically just another way for Oklahoma to continue to lead the nation in making sure that our kids are safe. We have been one of the top states in the nation, actually ranking number one in oversight in 2012, 2013 for making sure our kids are safe.”

Previously, Beutler says if someone lived out of state in the past three years, DHS required a background check from that state.

That could get expensive for a provider, especially if they had to get multiple background checks from multiple states.

However, DHS says the fingerprint scan will check all states.

Taylor sees the positives to the new law, but she hopes she can afford it.

The law went into effect Nov. 1.

Day cares have until January to comply.

The fingerprints will be collected at various sites throughout the state, such as UPS offices or mailboxes.