Waiver Process in Response to Child Care Criminal Background Check Law

Since it was enacted in November 2009, Act 76 (or the caregiver background check law), has been met with mixed reactions from the child care field in Wisconsin. The bill- created to increase safety and decrease fraud within child care programs- went into effect February 1, 2010 across the state. The bill includes legislation that 1) requires much more frequent criminal background checks for child care providers, 2) bans individuals convicted of certain crimes from holding a child care license, working in a child care facility, or living in a family child care home, and 3) requires the Department of Children and Families to suspend a provider’s license if they are charged with a serious crime and revoke the license if the provider is convicted of the crime. The bill was passed unanimously in both houses.

When the bill was originally drafted, the list of crimes that would result in a permanent ban from the field was small and included first/second degree reckless or intentional homicide, kidnapping, and armed burglary. During the legislative process, several amendments were approved and additional crimes now carry a permanent ban for licensees or certified providers only. These crimes are broad and include identity theft, felony forgery, felony retail theft, and felony cable theft. As a result, some providers in the field are losing their licenses for nonviolent crimes that they committed many years ago (see article here). DCF has stated that, as of now, 31 licenses have been revoked or surrendered because of Act 76.

Representative Tamara Grigsby, one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, is currently in the process of creating waiver legislation that if passed would allow providers who are affected by Act 76 to apply for a waiver from DCF under certain circumstances (especially for financial related crimes that currently hold a permanent bar). There will hopefully be a public hearing on this legislation by the end of March. Click here to watch Representative Grigsby discuss this issue on Wisconsin Public Television’s Here and Now series. Keep checking our blog for updates on this waiver bill.