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Parents, Child-Care Providers Protest Mississippi Fingerprint Scans

Mississippi's pilot program requiring fingerprint scans of parents who receive subsidized child care is raising concern among parents and care providers, who say the new rule is discriminatory.

State officials say the new program is designed to combat fraud and save money. Under the program, parents who receive subsidies must have their fingerprints scanned. The information from the scan is turned into a number, and the prints are then deleted, according to state officials. When parents drop off or pick up their kids at day care, they must touch a pad that records their numbers and exact arrival and departure times.

The state department of human services, which had been planning to roll out the fingerprinting policy statewide this month, has decided to hold off on doing so until next year, according to news reports.

Parents who are required to participate say the process is discriminatory because it singles them out and makes it difficult for others to pick up their children if they don't want to have their prints scanned. Parents who don't receive subsidies aren't required to get scans.

The Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative has been leading efforts urging the state to stop the program. "The parents who have a subsidy have to come through and scan their fingers at this machine, and the parents that aren't on the subsidy program don't have to do that," Director Carol Burnett told National Public Radio. "So you've got two lines of people who are obviously distinguished by who's got the subsidy and who doesn't."

State officials say the goal is to increase accountability in the child-care voucher system and to make sure the state isn't paying providers for children who aren't attending.

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