INDIANAPOLIS - State lawmakers are moving forward with plans some say would keep kids safer in day cares.
Registered ministries, also known as church day cares, are not licensed by the state and only have to meet about 21 standards.
Licensed centers have to meet nearly 200 health, safety and staffing regulations.
Wednesday, several bills moved forward that would require churches to meet additional regulations including national background checks for church day care workers.
Licensed centers and licensed homes are already required to perform national background checks.
A House committee and a Senate committee each passed legislation Wednesday requiring national background checks for child cares.
“So if you have someone with a conviction in another state, that’s not going to get picked up and they could still be caring for your child,” said Mindi Goodpaster, public policy director for the Marion County Commission on Youth. “(Registered ministries) do not have the same safety standards that licensed facilities do, and we really don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Senate Bill 305 would require day cares that receive federal funds, CCDF vouchers, to meet health and safety requirements like hand washing, maximum capacity limits and ensuring the safety of motor vehicles to transport children.
The bill would also require those day cares to adopt a discipline policy and require someone over the age of 18 to be present at the day care.
The legislation also sets forth a disciplinary process for suspension or revocation of eligibility of day cares receiving CCDF funds.
Seven people testified before the Health and Provider Services legislative committee in full support of the bill, including Pastor Michael Bowling, whose church operates Day Star day care, an unlicensed facility.
“We have voluntarily submitted ourselves to standards much higher than what you're being asked to pass, and we're glad to do it for the sake of children,” Bowling told the committee.
“We ought to be talking about the quality of care given by the providers who are receiving our money," said Connie Bond Stuart of PNC Bank. “It benefits society as a whole and the future workforce.”
Eric Miller of the conservative group Advance America is concerned about government control over churches.
“I view my role as just reminding legislators that we have a history in Indiana for all church ministries, vacation bible schools, Sunday schools, and we want to keep that freedom," said Miller. “Everyone wants to protect children, but when it comes to churches we want to make sure the appropriate balance is maintained.”
Another concern expressed Wednesday was the current bill does not require child-to-staff ratios for church day cares that receive CCDF funds.
“We’re disappointed with the amendment that removes child staff ratios out of the bill,” said Dianna Wallace of the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children.
Lawmakers moved forward anyway, passing Senate Bill 305 by a vote of 9-0.
No word yet on when it will be heard by the full Senate.