EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Katy Vaala has been running a daycare from her home in Eden Prairie for more than 20 years, but she says a new state law has her, and other providers, upset and confused.
"There was no time for any providers to react before (the law) and give any input whatsoever," Vaala said.
The law, passed by the legislature as part of the Human Services budget this year, brings Minnesota up to date with federal law requiring fingerprints along with background studies for all childcare staff. But in Minnesota, teen children of providers are considered staff too, meaning the fingerprinting applies to them.
For years, Vaala paid for her two kids to undergo background checks, but she says fingerprints are a step too far. Her own kids are now grown, but she says the change may cause other licensed providers to leave the industry at a time when there is a shortage of care.
"If (my kids) were still living here, between the ages of 13 and 17, I would very much consider not doing this job anymore," Vaala said.
Chuck Johnson, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, says they support the collection of fingerprints because background studies on teenagers has already proven helpful in making sure licensed providers are safe for vulnerable kids.
"I think that that concern has to be balanced against the safety and the concern of the children who are in care," Johnson said. "We disqualified 16, 13 to 17-year-olds last year using the background study method in place. Had that 16 been higher using fingerprints? I don't know."
Without proof that the fingerprints will be helpful, Vaala says it's just one more burden put on providers and their families.
"I wouldn't want my child to be in an FBI database because of the 'just in case,'" she said.
She isn't alone, many licensed providers are fighting the change and several senators are listening.
"There's not even a problem we're solving," said Senator Jim Abeler (R) Dist 35. "There's no problem and then here comes this really bad solution to the non-problem."
Senator Jim Abeler says the Human Services Committee will discuss changes to the law beginning on Wednesday and he believes there's time for a compromise before the law goes into effect next September.
"We have no intention, in my mind, to fingerprint 13-year-old teenagers to make their life more challenging," Senator Abeler said."
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