Mississippians will have another chance at a public hearing Wednesday to comment on a plan by the state to use finger scanning for checking kids in and out of daycare. The scanners are for familes who receive federal assistance for child care.
The program served almost 30,000 Mississippi children last year.
Most of the children who receive full-time or after-school care at McCarty Learning Center in Picayune receive the federal assistance, which helps low-income parents who are working or in school full-time.
Felicia Perkins is the daycare's director. She worries finger scanning will discourage some parents from using the assistance program.
“And the child may not be very stable," she says. "[He or she] might be with grandma, then with sister, then with cousin – who ever can watch the child. So there’s no stability, no routine, no continuity of caregiver. They’re not getting any childhood education, and right now with the Common Core, they need all the help they can get.”
The Mississippi Department of Human Services says the finger scanning system will provide more accurate data, reduce fraud and ultimately save money that can be used to provide more services to children.
Jill Dent is director of the department’s division of early childhood care and development.
"We’re hoping our budget is sustainable with our federal budget and we’re expecting to see in ensuring that all the children on the program are using the program and need the program," Dent says.
But opponents of the finger scanning system worry the savings will come at the expense of the families who need the assistance.
Carol Burnett is director of the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care initiative, She says a study they commissioned found 70 percent of the state’s providers oppose the finger scanning program.
"And 70 percent of providers also expect it is going to have a deterring impact on families benefiting to this program because the idea of fingerprinting is so offensive, it links the whole idea of criminalizing subsidy for child care services," Burnett says.
The Low Income Child Care Initiative and others have been protesting the finger scan program since the department of human services first proposed the program in 2012. A judge ordered the department to provide more information on the program before it's implemented.
The public hearing is Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 11 a.m. at the Hinds County Extension Office, 1735 Wilson Boulevard, in Jackson. A link to the department's economic impact statement for the Mississippi eChildCare system is here.