Senate Committee Meet to Discuss After School Programs in Florida

The Senate Children, Families and Seniors Committee held a meeting, to discuss the strike-all amendment presented by Senator Christopher L. Smith representing District 31.

Smith said, the strike-all amendment revises the current language of law involving after school programs or national organizations that do not provide childcare. Programs will be required to provide background screenings of their employees, increasing the protection of children enrolled in afterschool programs in Florida.  

The strike-all amendment is an extension of Senate Bill HB119. It was presented to the committee last year, requiring the Boys & Girls Club to conduct a background screening different from other after school programs. That component of the bill, which deemed to be important to Senator Nancy C. Detert, has been omitted this year. To provide an explanation of why the strike-all amendment is still relevant without details included the year before, Senator Smith states that the amendment is more direct.

“There is a lot of confusion as to [what are] childcare facilities or after school programs,” Smith said.  “Now what this does is it takes the language that was already in law that was in some intent legislation and puts it at you saying that if you are an afterschool program [you would have to] do level two background screenings.”

Before leaving the stand, Smith added that the bill does not add any new childcare providers to the bill exemption list. Roy Miller, a spokesperson from the Children’s Lobby, approached the stand expressing his thoughts on the amendment.

“It seems to us that if Boys & Girls Clubs needs an exemption because they are caught in some type of complicated childcare regulation, that they should add themselves or ask to be added to the exemption list,” Miller said.

Miller also discussed his opposition to the new language proposed for the strike-all amendment, stating that the definition of a national organization is unclear.

“Our concern about the language by getting into the language about national organizations, who are we talking about? Everybody always immediately thinks national organizations that we’re talking about bona-fide really good groups that we want providing care in Florida…but I’ve done this work for 40 years…I don’t even know the definition of a national organization is,” Miller said.

Janette Marbry, a representative for private childcare owners, approached the stand praising the Boys & Girls Club for making child safety efforts, but adding how the results are not applied to employment.

“I’m really excited that we finally have them under an agency to get them background screening because that’s a huge problem. The agency is actually looking at those, and I know that they have been doing them through their national association, but as I’ve talked to some of you that’s a snap shot and no agency says you should or should not hire that person. So this is a huge step forward,” Marbry.

Marbry is against the bill being pushed without revision, stating that the exemption should not branch out to after school care programs.

“We think this bill is not moving in the direction for the protection of children. We do not think that the exemption should be expanded to talk about after school care. We are clear. The state is clear. Under the grade 6 are child-care in the state of Florida. We will ask you not to move it forward today or work a little more on this bill,” Marbry

Committee members, Senator Eleanor Sobel and Senator Jeremy Ring, were excused from the meeting. The session ended with Senator Smith asking the chair for an additional week to be able to talk to missing members before voting.