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Unusual child care exception offered

Published (4/10/2009)
By Kris Berggren
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Child care provider Heather Quale lost her job due to an incident that led to a maltreatment investigation even though the parent of the child involved commended Quale for how she handled the incident.

HF2124, sponsored by Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), could keep experienced providers like Quale on the job if it’s shown they don’t pose an ongoing risk to children.

In August 2007, a child in Quale’s care at a New Horizon Academy facility injured her fingers in a door and required medical treatment. An investigation led to a determination of maltreatment and Quale’s disqualification from working with children the following March. She now works at a bank.

“Everyone involved knows this was an accident,” Paul Stone, the father of two children formerly in Quale’s care, told the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division April 2. “There is no evidence of true neglect.”

The division approved the bill and sent it to the House floor. Its companion, SF1884, sponsored by Sen. John Doll (DFL-Burnsville), awaits action by the full Senate.

The bill would lift the current requirement that a child care center must post a public notice of an employee’s disqualification for maltreatment for two years if that employee appeals the decision and receives a “set-aside” or variance. Parents of enrolled children would continue to be notified of the incident and determination.

Quale was granted a set-aside after six months, meaning she could go back to working with children, and has applied for a reversal, but she still awaits the hearing.

Department of Human Services Licensing Director Jerry Kerber said the law was enacted in 2005 in reaction to media reports that child care centers had hired workers having criminal histories without notifying parents. He apologized for Quale’s unduly long process.

New Horizon Academy Advocacy Director Cisa Keller, speaking on behalf of the Minnesota Child Care Association, said, “We want to be able to keep the teachers we have in our programs. We are not trying to change how the department does their investigations.”

The change could spare others the “job loss, character defamation and embarrassment” Quale said she experienced.

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