Official responds to complaints about childcare background checks at North Dakota Health and Human Services

Image by WDAY News First - Tom Tucker
Image by WDAY News First - Tom Tucker

(Fargo, ND) -- The Deputy Commissioner for North Dakota Health and Human Services is refuting complaints about how long it's taking her department to complete background checks for people who want to work in the childcare industry. 

"If we get a full kit, which means someone has resided in North Dakota the entire time, all of their forms are filled out correctly, and we get that, we can have it turned around honestly in 48 hours," said Sara Stolt. 

Stolt is responding to complaints made in Fargo last week by Boys and Girls Club CEO Robin Nelson and YMCA Vice President Lorrie Thoemke. They say Health and Human Services is taking up to 4 weeks to complete background checks, and sometimes longer, for people who want to work at their agencies. Nelson and Thoemke say the bottleneck is only making the childcare crisis worse.  

Thoemke provided a written statement to WDAY News First detailing her experience with the state's background check system..

"Our average turnaround is 14-20 (days), and often longer for out-of-state applicants (something out of ND’s control.) and MN can turn them around in 3 days due to having the digital system. I recently had to renew my fingerprint verification, it took 27 days and I have not moved and have been in my position for 25 years. Yesterday, I had a staff go to get their Minnesota fingerprints. Their appointment was at 2:40 and the cleared comprehensive came in at 4:45. Imagine securing your wonderful new job working with children, but now you need to wait two weeks to three months before you can be with the children. Besides this, there will be no paycheck for them. We all know that they can’t wait and they will move on to new employment," wrote Thoemke.

"We are very much in support of the childcare community. We very much want to fix this so that we can have timely, efficient background checks and support the hiring of their staff," said Stolt.

Stolt said processing background checks for college students who are from out of state "exacerbates the feeling that background checks are taking an exorbitant amount of time".      


Original Air Date: 
Monday, February 6, 2023