The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) leads the nation when it comes to oversight and standards for family child care homes, with Child Care Aware of America ranking Oklahoma among the top states in the nation for its oversight of and standards for child care. Now DHS is stepping up its requirements for child care providers, all in an effort to provide additional safety to children who attend day care.

A new law is now in effect requiring a national criminal history record check--including the submission of fingerprints. It applies to new owners, personnel, individuals with unsupervised access to children and adults living in a child care facility. This is an additional measure that protects children in care while away from their parents. This will also help prevent offenders in other states from moving to Oklahoma, providing false information about where they previously lived and worked, and getting jobs taking care of Oklahoma’s children.

State legislation was originally passed in 2011, with a Nov. 1, 2013 effective date. Fingerprints will be submitted via live scan machines located across the state, and the results transmitted electronically to the Licensing Records Office. That office will then conduct additional background checks and send the results to the child care program.

The new law is also designed to be a faster and potential cost-saving mechanism for the daycare provider. Previously, if a new employee had lived out-of-state, the provider was required to pay for background checks for each state in which that person had lived. Now one national background check is required and will provide results from all states. The fingerprint results will take 24 hours or less, with additional background information from the Licensing Records Office provided within one week.

DHS partnered with the Oklahoma Child Care Association (OCCA) and the Child Care Advisory Committee to draft this legislation as a further way of improving our state’s child care system and protecting children in care. The OCCA and Advisory Committee are represented by providers from across the state.

Oklahoma’s DHS has long been at the forefront of child care licensing practices, and was the first in the nation to implement a Quality Rating and Improvement System called “Reaching for the Stars.” Following Oklahoma’s lead, more than 40 other states have implemented a similar system.