Mississippi Draws Fire for Requiring Finger Scans of Parents on Federal Aid

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Last month, a Mississippi parent filed a class action lawsuit against the state Department of Human Services, contesting that requiring biometric finger scans for parents receiving federal child care subsidies constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure, Equal Voice News reports

 Later this year, the state’s DHS plans on instituting a statewide verification system that would require electronic fingerprinting at child care centers of parents receiving subsidies.
 
While an official DHS statement argues the system will “maximize federal dollars” for children receiving federal aid, numerous advocates believe the system is destined to have the opposite effect, with the policy ultimately resulting in fewer child care centers willing to accept federally subsidized child care vouchers.

Under the new policy, parents receiving subsidized vouchers are required to attend training sessions where their fingerprints will be scanned into a central office system. Additionally, child care centers that accept federally subsidized vouchers will be required to place $900 deposits on the finger scanning hardware and open bank accounts for reimbursements to be deposited and withdrawn.

In Louisiana, electronic fingerprinting has been a requirement for parents receiving federal aid since 2010. Equal Voice News reports a verification system will likely cost Mississippi more than $1.6 million a year.

Child Care Law Center Executive Director Kim Kruckel said there are better ways to promote efficiency and fraud prevention.

“Just because parents are poor, they still have the same privacy rights, and they have the right to choose who picks up their children from child care without having to submit them for fingerprinting,” she told Equal Voice News.

Mississippi has the highest rate in the nation of children living in poverty; a 2012 National Public Radio report states that approximately 18,000 children in the state currently receive child care subsidies, while an additional 8,000 are currently on federal aid waiting lists.