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New DHS Fingerprinting Requirement Draws Criticism

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 25 Jul 2013 05:36am | comments

Starting this fall, parents of some 18,000 Mississippi kids will have to scan their finger to check their children in and out of child care.  The fingerprint scanners have caused controversy and division among child care providers.

 The Mississippi Department of Human Services is moving forward with a controversial plan to require the fingerprint scanners in order for facilities and parents to access federal subsidies that help before for child care.

 Jill Dent with DHS says the scanners will track when children are actually at a center so the state can more accurately spend the millions of state and federal dollars that help fund that care.

 "We have about $7.5 million in state funds. About $5.5 million we use as match," Dent said.

 Dent says providers have the choice to use the scanners, but those that reject them will not be given subsidy money for the low income children.

 Parents will have to sign up and have their finger scanned at a DHS office before the end of august to continue to receive their subsidy.

 About 18,000 children receive that subsidy.

 Lynn Black, who operates a child care center in Tupelo, has been part of a pilot test of the scanners and says it has improved her recording keeping and safety.

 "To me it has been an option of safety for the child as well as holding my parents accountable. I have not had any problems. It is time consuming with time in and out paper work when I can just go to my computer and see who has signed in and who as not," Black said,.

 But other child care providers are not so enthusiastic, protesting the scanners and even filing a lawsuit to stop their implementation.

 Eulonda Gary runs a child care center in Jackson and says the program is not living up to DHS's promises and singles out low income parents.

 "If we choose not to participate in the scan that means that we cannot accept children that are on the program and they know that is our livelihood. So we are being forced to do this and I don't think that is fair," Gary said.

 Gary says about 80 of the 170 children she helps care for receive the subsidy, making it hard for her to see how her center could function if she does not install the scanners.

 Centers will have to begin using the scanners October first.





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