RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) - Who's really taking care of your kids? Background checks are supposed to weed out murderers, sexual predators, druggies, thieves and even child abusers. But the Fact Finders uncovered any of those people could work in a daycare for 72 hours without someone knowing.
“Oh my! I think that's terrible,” said Sarah Lawrence, a great-grandmother to a four-year-old currently in day care.
Lawrence was shocked to learn state law N.R.S. 432A only says the checks only have to be complete within three days after someone's hired.
“If they don't check the background how are they going to know who they are and then we have to trust our kids with them,” Lawrence said.
State leaders say they know about the issue and there is a slight possibility of something bad happening because of it.
“There's always potential,” said Wendy Simons, Director of Nevada’s Health Care Quality and Compliance. “We'd like to believe everybody is honest, but people looking for work might not disclose that they have something in their background that doesn't allow them to do that kind of work.”
Simons says the three day time frame came down in 2008 when the checks were controlled by another department in the state. She's not sure that waiting period has a purpose anymore but says it is shorter than some other fields like residential care facilities where workers have 10 days to get checks done.
“It's not a huge issue, but it's always a concern,” Simons said. ”And we always want to be sure we have the proper safety mechanisms in place for the kids. But from the statistics, no statistics aren't demonstrating that it's really a serious issue but it's always an issue of concern.”
News 4 conducted a nationwide search to see how Nevada’s law sizes up. Forty other states require a quicker time frame than us, and 37 of them won't let a worker be unsupervised with kids at all until the background check is done.
It's hard to tell exactly how important that process is because Washoe County doesn't keep exact numbers of people who fail their background checks. Child care services estimates they receive two to three notifications of a failure every month. But the Sheriff's office adds it's also common to see someone decide not to complete the fingerprinting when they realize they have to pay for it and probably wouldn't pass anyway.
There are some day cares like Noah's Ark in Reno who feel background checks are so important, they won't hire someone without it - despite the state law loophole.
“It's kinda covering my backside because I don't want to bring that person in here and have them work for a period of time. Have the children kinda get used to them and also I don't want to leave myself liable in case there is something in that person's background where they wouldn't be a good role model or they would be a good influence on the children,” Director Colleen Petrini said.
But for places which don't take that extra step, parents just have to hope nothing fishy is going on in the three days after a new caregiver is hired.
While this state law has the clear loophole, the Department of Healthcare Quality and Compliance says one thing that might make parents feel a little better is this paper which all new employees have to sign on day one - swearing they will be able to pass the background check. Of course without an independent review from law enforcement, you have to take those job applicants for their word.