Thousands of people with criminal pasts that include violent felonies and hurting children have been hired to work in Florida’s child care centers over the past two decades, a Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel investigation has found. Last year, a baby suffered severe burns at a day care while under the watch of a woman on felony probation who was working without a background check. A Central Florida toddler nearly died after being left in a sweltering van by a day care employee whose lengthy theft record should have barred her from working at the center.
Florida law requires criminal background checks for child care employees but allows them to begin work before screening is complete. Once the results are in, a process that can take months, people barred from working with children because of a criminal record can still qualify by obtaining an exemption finding that they have been rehabilitated. The law, along with screening failures, has opened the door for rapists, pedophiles and even killers to work in child care. Parents have no way of knowing if felons are caring for their children.