Less book work, financial savings advantages of thumbprinting at day cares

Published 10:59 pm Saturday, November 3, 2012

I operated a day care center in Vicksburg from 1983 through when I closed my center December 2011, raising two generations of Vicksburg’s children. From 1991 until I retired, I had 30 to 60 children at a time whose tuition was funded through the Department of Human Services — whether through slots or certificates/vouchers.

The thumbprint system is an excellent idea. Yes, same as with a new car, there will be kinks to work out of the system, but once it is working smoothly it will achieve two things: 1. Less book work on the part of the day care operators and DHS operatives. 2. Money is saved by the prevention of “devious” bookkeeping on the part of dishonest centers, where the current system makes it easy to claim attendance for children who are either absent, or may have never set foot in the center.

The money saved by not paying for “inaccurate attendance keeping” will free up money for certificates that are desperately needed by families who need their children to actually attend day care. Less money will also be needed for DHS salaries for employees to process attendance sheets sent in by centers.

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Rules for the certificate/voucher program have been “tightened” on an almost yearly basis, both to streamline the system and to prevent illegal activities by both parents and day care centers.

Thumbprinting is just another step in this direction, but suddenly there are lawsuits concerning the matter. As my grandaddy would have said, “Maybe the kicked dog barks the loudest.”

If these centers do not want to participate and abide by the new rules, they do not have to participate in the certificate program. There are many centers who do not accept certificates. Initiating a lawsuit was ridiculous.

If the main issue with some of the centers is privacy and discrimination, and certificate children thumbprinting in while non-certificate children being signed in and out by their parents, then set the machines up to where all the children thumbprint in, regardless of type of payment.

The center can then go online and print out the attendance records required by MDHS to be kept on file for their inspections. (If a child has thumbprinted in, and it does not show up in the system, have a form for the parent to sign for the center to fax in stating the child was in attendance.)

Having a child’s fingerprints on file is not something to be scared of. If they go missing, are taken or there is catastrophic weather, you should have a current picture and fingerprints on file for the police to aid in their search and identification.

The Star Rating System set up by DHS is basically an inducement for day cares to upgrade their staff training, their learning programs, and their teacher-child-parent relations; all the while being given free supplies and equipment and up to thousands of dollars each month in incentive money earned by participating in the program (percentage based on how many Stars earned multiplied by tuition received each month for vouchers/certificates). All in an effort to improve the overall quality of child care and education in the state of Mississippi.

The monies allocated to DHS for certificates/vouchers has been cut every year for the past 10 years or so. The State of Mississippi needs to look at allocating more monies for this program which encourages parents to return to work or school and eventually become independent of any state/federal assistance programs. They need to remember infants and pre-school children learn more during these formative years than all 13 years of school.

Bunny Reihsmann, known as Miss Bunny, has lived in Vicksburg since 1981. She was owner of Bunny’s Child Care, Inc.