This month has been a big one for advocates seeking to raise the quality and safety of child care in Washington. Governor Christine Gregoire this week signed three bills that will help support safe child care settings and improve efficiency in Washington's licensing practice.
The Colby Thompson Act is aimed at helping the state identify and address unlicensed child care providers in Washington. Thenew law requires that requires that the Department of Early Learning post information on its website about individuals who have not started the licensing process within 30 days of being notified that they are offering illegal, unlicensed care. The bill also boosts the potential penalty for family home child care providers offering unlicensed care from $75 per day to $150 per day. Center penalties remain at $250 per day.
For providers in good standing, the second bill signed into law (Senate Bill 5625), is a boon. It changes the state's process to a non-expiring child care license system for those licensed providers in good standing as determined by Department of Early Learning monitoring. The department will monitor licensed family homes at least once every 18 months, and licensed centers at least once a year. But the new law means licensees in good standing will no longer have to go through the reapplication process every three years, streamlining paperwork for child care providers and the state.
Under House Bill 1903, the Department of Early Learning will create a portable background check registry by July 1, 2012. After clearing a background check, child care licensees and their employees will be issued a three-year clearance card, which they can use at various child care facilities. The goal is to help employees who wish to work in more than one place. At the same time child care centers will not need to wait for a candidate for employments background check to clear before hiring. The bill has protections to ensure the state is made aware if something happens that could change an individual's cleared background check status.
According to the Department of Early Learning blog, DEL Connects, "this bill also will require all individuals newly working in licensed child care starting July 1, 2012, who may have unsupervised access to children in care to undergo a fingerprint-based criminal background check. This currently is required only of individuals who have lived in the state less than three years."