Child care finger scanning to go statewide

Mississippi State NewsBy Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Tupelo child care provider Lynn Black said she has not had any problems participating in a pilot program that requires parents to have their fingers scanned to receive government subsides to help pay for their child care costs.
Black, owner of Little Leap Academy in Tupelo, and Courtney Hinton of Tupelo, who has a child enrolled in Black’s day care and participates in the finger scanning program, spoke of the benefits of the program Wednesday when the

Mississippi Department of Human Services announced the finger scanning would be mandatory statewide starting Oct 1.

Little Leap is one of about 70 day cares participating in the pilot program.

Of the finger-scanning program, Black said, “It has held my parents accountable. I have not had a lot of absenteeism. I have not had any problems.”

Hinton said the program has not affected her negatively and has provided her peace of mind as she drops her child off on the way to work.

The Department of Human Services said the program will save money because it creates a more efficient way to verify children are being enrolled in day care so low-income parents can receive their federal subsidies. Plus, they say it will be safer since day cares will have an electronic record of those authorized to pick up children.

Jill Dent, director of the Division of Early Childhood Care and Development, said Wednesday at a news conference that the program will save money, thus allowing the state to allow more parents to take advantage of the federal program that provides child care subsides while they work or go to school.

The scanning has been controversial with some child care providers. A lawsuit in Hinds County Chancery Court seeks to block its enactment.

Last year, the voluntary federal program provided vouchers for child care for parents who earn less than 80 percent of the state’s median income. Because of limited funds, the program normally covers only parents who earn less than 50 percent of the state’s median income. There were 18,500 children in the program with more than 8,000 on a waiting list.

The program was supposed to begin earlier this year. Dent said parents need to undergo training that can be accessed at www.childcareinfo.ms and visit the county DHS office for a finger scan before Aug. 30. Providers must participate in a two-hour training webinar in September.

Dent said the program will cost $1.2 million at current enrollment, less than the agency is spending now to document child care attendance.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com