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Background phone line passes in the House

March 03, 1999
By: Jennifer Lutz
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 490

JEFFERSON CITY - Legislation to create a toll-free phone line for background checks of child and elderly care providers, passed through the Missouri House.

The Family Care Safety Act proposed by Rep. Katherine Hollingsworth, D-Imperial, would require child and elderly care employees to register information into a statewide data base.

Two amendments were proposed by Republican representatives exempting religious day cares from registering, but they were not approved.

"The Democrats wave a flag between the separation of church and state, but this bill opens up a big hole," said Rep. Jon Bennett, R-St. Charles, who offered one of the amendments.

"I don't believe it is fair to families to not include the religious day care," Hollingsworth said. "It is imperative that all workers be included."

Bennett said parents, and not the state, should take the responsibility of making sure they know who is watching over their children.

"Despite the attempts to weaken the legislation, the majority decided it was in the best interest of Missouri's families," Hollingsworth said.

One amendment approved by the House would prohibit the selling of the information in the registry to other organizations.

Independently hired workers and those who receive part of their salary from government funds would be required to register. Prospective employees would only have to pay the $14 fee the first time they apply for a job as a child or elderly care worker. The money is used to pool information together from the State Highway Patrol, Social Services Department and the Aging Division.

"The more the state takes over in raising children, the less amount of responsibility the parents will assume," Bennett said.

Baby sitters, private day care centers, or groups not receiving any money from the state would not be required to register.

The data base would not disqualify care providers, rather it would let employers know information about the person they might hire.

Two Columbia parents, Rick McDowell and Debra Linneman, supported the bill after each had a baby die while under the supervision of the same child care provider.