The U.S. Defense Secretary Tuesday announced an investigation into the staff at all U.S. military day cares, an investigation that will delve into hundreds of centers all over the world.
The surprise announcement comes after a troubling episode at the Fort Myer day-care center, the largest in the Department of Defense with a capacity for almost 450 children. It also highlights a problem that plagues many day cares around the country: faulty or limited background checks.
This fall, two day-care employees at the Fort Myer center were arrested for assault. In October, WJLA reported that a parent complaint led officials to review surveillance videos of the day care. On the tapes, officials saw one worker dragging and hitting one 2-year-old and another worker hitting a different 2-year-old child and threatening him with a sticky rodent trap filled with bugs.
One of those workers now faces five counts of assault, the other faces four.
A subsequent investigation revealed that up to 30 staff members at the center, which serves children of Pentagon employees and families based at Fort Myer, Fort McNair and other military facilities in the region, had problematic records. According to the Associated Press the Army has not said what it found in those backgrounds, other than “derogatory information.”
Officials closed the center last week and moved the children to a different facility.
Such problems, though unexpected at a military facility, are not so unique.
Earlier this year, LexisNexis released a report on employee screenings that found just under a quarter of potential employees screened had serious criminal convictions. And their backgrounds were only flagged because they were screened.
Many facilities require background checks, but obviously those checks are not foolproof.
In a previous post, Theresa Preg, a senior director at LexisNexis, offered a checklist for parents to use to make sure care staff have been fully vetted. Given Tuesday’s news, I’ll reprint her advice:
● Do you perform background checks on all volunteers and employees? If not, who is excluded?
● What types of checks do you perform?
● What types of discrepancies or offenses are acceptable, and what type of information disqualifies an individual from volunteering or working here?
● When do you perform the background checks? Before or after the individual begins work with your organization?
● After the initial check, do you ever go back to check for new offenses?
Does you day care or school perform background checks? Have you asked?