RALEIGH — Many working parents trust someone else to take care of their children during the day. For many people, at-home day care centers are the most convenient and affordable choices.
However, new state laws designed to help parents make the right at-home day care choice are not up to speed.
When it comes to checking up on in-home child care providers, parents have a lot of legwork to do. Parents can do some checking on their own, but the state plays a big role in gathering that information.
North Carolina has made a number of advances in keeping tabs on in-home providers, but it still has a way to go.
After registering as an in-home day care provider, Gini Gordon had to get a criminal background check. It took the state nearly a year to complete it.
"I think we need to be a little more careful who's watching the children," Gordon said. "They did do fingerprinting right away, and all that was good. But, I think background checks are very important, to get it on time."
The State Bureau of Investigation admits it had a background check backlog earlier this year. The bureau has reduced its turnaround time from several months to several days.
"I think it's very troubling," Gordon said. "For myself and families, that's something that they should be concerned about, that it's taking that long to find out the backgrounds of people that are watching your children."
In addition, next year an antiquated paperwork system should be replaced by computers, though there were some hopes it would have been online by now.
"I think it'll help all of us, try to make this more of a profession, if we are a little more current with the background checks," Gordon said.
What may be more troubling is in-home day care providers are often visited by the state just once, when they're trying to get their registration, and very few are checked annually.
"We always go when there is a complaint, Division of Child Development Director Stephanie Fanjul said. "But we can't go on a regular basis to the family child care homes, just because we don't have enough staff right now.
There may be another way to check up on child care providers next spring. The state plans to begin rating them on a scale of one-to-five stars, depending on their level of training and other factors. However, a lot of details of this system must still be ironed out.
"We will have to finish our public process, and then wait for the General Assembly," Fanjul said. "So by next spring we hope to have the five stars in place. I thinks parent will very excited about it."