Conducting background checks has become a standard in any employment hiring process, yet some organizations might choose to underplay the importance of background screening, especially for small businesses. The decision of skipping a background check (reasons may be the cost, additional formalities it involves, etc.), however, can backfire as regulatory actions or an employee with criminal background getting access to your facility, people, and crucial resources.
Though some may get away with the decision of ignoring background checks, there are employment types that can be extremely vulnerable if background checks are not conducted. Caregiving is one of such job types that cannot afford to avoid background screening.
Though conducting an employee background check can be important for any job type, it becomes crucial for positions such as caregivers, in which employees come in contact with vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, the physically/mentally disabled, etc. as a part of their job. Caregiver background screening can help take pre-emptive actions in case of any information that can potentially be a cause of concern for this job role.
What constitutes caregiving?
Caregiving is an important function in early care and education settings as well as institutions that assist individuals with impairments caused by any disability, disease, old age, or mental disorder. Caregivers help these individuals with inabilities to perform daily functions as well as improve accessibility.
Child care criminal background check
All caregivers/teachers and staff in early care and education settings (in addition to any individual age 18 and older, or a minor over age 12 if allowed under State law and if a registry/database includes minors, residing in a family child care home) should undergo a complete child care criminal background check upon employment and once at least every five years thereafter.
Background screening for child care should be conducted as expeditiously as possible and should be completed within 45 days after hiring. Caregivers/teachers and staff should not have unsupervised access to children until screening has been completed. Consent to the background investigation should be required for employment consideration.
What does a child care criminal background check include?
- A search of the State criminal and sex offender registry or repository in the State where the child care staff member resides, and each State where such staff member resided during the preceding 5 years;
- A search of State-based child abuse and neglect registries and databases in the State where the child care staff member resides, and each State where such staff member resided during the preceding 5 years; and
- A Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprinting for daycare workers using Next Generation Identification (NGI).
Directors/programs should review each employment application to assess the relevancy of any issue uncovered by the complete background screening, including any arrest, pending criminal charge, or conviction, and should use this information in employment decisions in accordance with state laws.
Child care criminal background check requirements
DSS background check is legally required for people who work or regularly spend time in a licensed childcare center. Or for anyone who resides in a private home where a family childcare facility operates. You and the families you serve need to know with certainty that the adults present with the children in your care contribute to the children’s safety and are not a danger to them. It is essential for all of us to understand what a caregiver background screening involves, and who is required to obtain one.
DSS background check for caregivers helps achieve vital objectives. They prevent anyone who has been convicted of a serious criminal violation from having access to children in licensed childcare facilities. And they provide you and the families you serve with the peace of mind that adults at your facility have received the appropriate clearances to be in contact with young children.
Background checks approved by licensing provide a lot of information. They are relatively simple procedures to complete.
Who is required to undergo a DSS background check?
There are different DoJ caregiver background check requirements for family childcare homes and childcare centers. For family child care homes, every adult who works or lives in the household must undergo a background check for child care.
- Residents who are not providing care directly to children.
- Those who are not on the premises during caregiving hours.
- Children 18 years of age or older, or who turned 18 while still living in the home.
- And any adult who lives in a different part of the home, such as an in-law unit, a rented room, or a rented guesthouse that’s on the same property as the family childcare home.
However, if a family childcare home is located in an apartment building, residents of other apartments in that building who don’t interact with the children in care, are not required to undergo a background check.
For center-based facilities. Everyone who works or volunteers at a center must undergo a background check with a few exceptions, which are discussed in subsequent sections. In both family childcare homes and childcare centers, if you cannot provide documentation that everyone who has access to your facility has undergone a required background check. You will be subject to a type A citation and a civil penalty.
How does a background check for child care work?
In order to initiate caregiver background screening, the person signs a criminal record statement – LIC 508 and agrees to fingerprint for child care. Community Care Licensing sends you a live scan form with instructions on how to perform fingerprinting for daycare workers. Once fingerprinting for child care staff has been processed by a certified live scan technician. The live scan prints are sent electronically to the Department of Justice for the DoJ caregiver background check.
- The Department of Justice
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation
- The Child Abuse Clearance Index
If there are no matching fingerprints in the federal and state databases, the person is eligible for criminal record clearance. Once someone receives a criminal record clearance, the clearance remains active as long as the individual is affiliated with a licensed facility.
Affiliated means that the person is working, residing, or volunteering in a licensed childcare facility. If an individual is no longer affiliated with a facility, he or she must be affiliated with another facility within two years, or the clearance will become inactive. If an individual becomes inactive, he or she must be fingerprinted and cleared again before working, residing, or volunteering in a licensed childcare facility. To determine if someone you wish to employ already has an active criminal record clearance, you can call your local community care licensing office to confirm the same.
On the other hand, if the criminal record review reveals matching fingerprints in any of the three databases, you will be informed of the nature of the violation and when it occurred. You will also be informed if the violation qualifies for an exemption and why or if the violation does not qualify for an exemption and why not.
Exemption from fingerprinting for daycare workers
Are there any people with access to child care facilities who don’t need a criminal record clearance? Certain volunteers who provide time-limited services do not need to obtain a criminal record clearance. For example, medical professionals who have already been cleared as a condition of licensure and college students who volunteer less than 16 hours per week, are not left alone with children and are directly supervised at all times by an employee with a criminal record clearance. Legal guardians or relatives of the children in care also don’t need a criminal record clearance.
There are criminal violations that can permanently exclude a person from working at a childcare facility as a staff member or volunteer.
Anyone who’s been convicted of a violent felony is not eligible for an exemption. Likewise, anyone who’s committed a crime perpetrated against children, even if it is not a felony, will not be allowed to work in a licensed childcare facility.
What prior criminal violations may qualify for an exemption?
There can be prior criminal violations that may qualify for an exemption and enable an individual to be a staff member or volunteer in a childcare facility.
If a background check reveals prior violations, that person may still qualify for an exemption. Examples of possible violations that might qualify for an exemption include non-violent misdemeanors or a violation that did not involve violence, such as a shoplifting conviction that is several years old. Also, some DUI – Driving Under the Influence convictions may qualify for a conditional exemption.
Check with your state’s community care department if you have any questions about conditional exemptions. Anyone with a criminal record for anything other than a minor traffic violation must apply and qualify for an exemption to be at the facility. If an exemption request is approved, the state community care department will inform you, the licensee that the applicant has undergone a more extensive check-in and is qualified to work in the facility.
If anyone who has been granted an exemption for a prior criminal record is subsequently arrested again. The state community care department will be notified and will notify you and that person will be subject to possible loss of the exemption. Criminal Record clearances play a crucial role in protecting the health and safety of children in licensed facilities.
Important points you need to know about this requirement
- To work in a licensed childcare facility, adults must obtain a criminal record clearance.
- Beyond minor traffic violations, adults with a prior criminal history can request a criminal record exemption if they have not been convicted of a felony or any crime perpetrated against children.
- Relatives of the children in care and certain volunteers are not required to obtain a clearance also in both family childcare homes and childcare centers, if you cannot provide documentation that everyone who has access to your facility has undergone a required background check, you will be subject to a type A citation and a civil penalty.
Childcare regulations and licensure
Childcare regulations are intended to promote children’s health and safety in licensed childcare facilities. However, families and providers should understand that state regulations exempt certain types of providers from licensure, meaning they can operate legally without a license. So let’s look at the differences between licensed childcare facilities and licensed-exempt childcare.
Families have a range of childcare options available to them. As the consumers of these services, it’s important for families to know which individuals and facilities are governed by licensing regulations and which are exempt from licensure.
At the same time, families should be aware that some individuals provide care without a license or exemption, which means they are operating illegally. Not only will they be shut down if Community Care Licensing learns about them, but more importantly for you, it’s unlikely that they are following state health and safety regulations we’ve developed to protect children and care.
If you have questions about whether or not a provider is licensed to offer child care, you can contact your local community care licensing office and request this information.
What is the difference between licensed childcare and license-exempt care?
Licensed providers have undergone an application and review process with Community Care Licensing and are required to comply with certain health and safety regulations. Licensed exempt care is not regulated by community care licensing. Although, there may be other government agencies that monitor their activities.
The first group includes individuals who care for the children of a relative or who care for the children of one other family in addition to their own children. Certain parent cooperatives, in which families rotate care on an unpaid basis, are also exempt. The second group includes public as well as private non-profit programs that offer recreational services. These programs include some community centers, as well as most parks and recreation programs. The third group includes businesses that offer limited childcare to their clients and customers.
These programs usually require that the parent or guardian remain on the premises and that they remove their children within a specified amount of time. A fourth group includes programs that are overseen by state agencies other than Community Care Licensing, for example, organized camps that are overseen by the Department of Public Health and Heritage schools that are overseen by the Department of Education.
What should you know about license-exempt care?
Licensing can only respond to fear alerted to an unlicensed and non-exempt Child Care operation. When alerted licensing will take legal action against the facility if the person operating does not take steps to obtain a license. Civil penalties may also apply.
How does licensing deal with childcare providers who operate illegally that is they operate without a license and are not legally exempt from licensure?
Nothing on the wall documents it in the way a license on the wall documents having a license. Families must take extra steps to determine if the provider is offering care legally. Ask the provider if he or she is licensed or licensed exempt and check the Community Care Licensing website to see if the facility is in the state’s database. You can also call your local licensing office for this information.
When an individual or program is offering licensed-exempt care, it doesn’t mean that the care provided to children is inferior or inadequate compared to licensed care. But it does mean that families will probably benefit from knowing more before choosing a licensed exempt provider because there is no official designation of exemption.
License-exempt providers do not apply to community care licensing to be declared exempt and do not receive any documentation to that effect.
Though DoJ caregiver background check is a regulatory requirement for caregivers, it is yet to see a nationwide last mile implementation of the process. Especially the far-flung locations across the United States struggling to meet the DoJ caregiver background check requirements. Some states such as Alaska are even worse due to small villages only accessible by plane.
Currently, it is hard to have licensed child care centers in remote villages, mostly due to fingerprinting for child care requirements. There are 17 Head Start grantees in the state, operating in over 100 communities across the State and nearly all of the remote locations are struggling with this.
Though the Office of Head Start keeps pushing the compliance date back; the Office of Child Care has been demanding the prints for any licensed provider or center-based child care staff. Home providers who are relatives of the child(ren) in their care are exempt from this requirement so currently they only able to support the relative providers.