HB 2621 focuses on ensuring a safe learning environment for children in early programs through background checks and the Department of Early Learning’s access to records. The bill amends current statute related to protections of sharing unfounded allegations of child abuse and neglect. The bill creates an exception for the Department of Early Learning for purposes of conducting investigations and background checks for individuals who may have unsupervised access to children in care. Under the bill’s provisions, the Department of Early Learning shall be able to access founded and unfounded allegations of abuse and neglect, allegations for which there was not a finding, and ongoing investigations. The bill protects the sharing of mental health reports and drug and alcohol evaluations without consent of the person under evaluation. It also restricts access of these person’s adoption records by the Department of Early Learning for background check purposes.
The bill would eliminate current law’s language that DSHS shall destroy records concerning screened out reports and unfounded or inconclusive reports as well as language that the department may keep records concerning founded reports of child abuse and neglect as DSHS determines by rule.
As amended, the bill removes the DEL from the list of entities included in the definition of "juvenile justice or care agency." It eliminates the requirement that the DEL has access to or investigate records and information that pertain to allegations of abuse or neglect for which there is not a finding. Additionally, the substitute limits the DEL's access to records and information to only be those of:
- an applicant for a license issued by the DEL, including household members; a licensee with the DEL, including household members;
- a person seeking to volunteer with a person or entity licensed by the DEL;
- or a person seeking to be employed by the DEL.
The substitute bill restricts the DEL from sharing confidential child welfare records with other state agencies or persons, except as allowed under 13.50 and 26.44 RCW. It also restricts the DEL from denying a license to an individual based solely on an unfounded allegation of child abuse or neglect.
As amended by the House of Representatives, the bill requires that nothing in section 6(6)(c) affects the appeal rights regarding a denial, suspension, revocation, or modification of a child care license.