What You Need to Know About Background Checks

Trust is a crucial part of the relationship between parents and a childcare provider, especially when it comes to the safety of children. Parents need to know that the people their children come into contact with each day are trustworthy, reputable childcare providers who would never put their little ones in harm’s way. A background check is one of the most popular methods of screening childcare providers and staff, but it can be a mysterious process to parents with limited daycare experience.

State Background Check Requirements

Laws regarding childcare facilities vary from one state to the next, not only in terms of licensing but also hiring and background checks. While many states do have laws on the books requiring at least minimal investigation, the truth is that the states themselves don’t usually conduct those background checks. Compliance is often left up to daycare administrative staff and directors. To further complicate matters, some states have differing requirements for childcare centers and home-based daycare providers.

Childcare Center Statistics

  • Forty-four states legally require all staff members of a childcare center to be checked against the child abuse and neglect registry

  • Twenty-eight states conduct a state fingerprint check as a legal requirement

  • Twenty-six states conduct both state and federal fingerprint checks

  • Eighteen states legally require staff members to be checked against the sex offender registry

  • Ten states in America require childcare centers to check all of the above databases as part of a pre-employment background check

Home-Based Center Statistics

  • Thirty-eight states legally require home-based childcare center employees to be checked against the child abuse and neglect registry

  • Twenty-four states conduct state fingerprint checks for home-based childcare center employees

  • Eighteen states require sex offender registry checks for home-based childcare providers

Background Check Information for Parents

While the majority of states do have some legal requirements in terms of background checks for childcare providers, it’s important for parents to take a proactive role in the process. During an interview with a prospective childcare provider, parents should make a point of asking about the type of background checks conducted and who is screened. Caregivers and teaching staff should be screened for a criminal history and checked against relevant databases, but background checks should not be limited to only direct teaching staff. Kitchen, custodial and clerical staff should also be screened, along with any volunteers, as they will also be in contact with children throughout the day.

When considering home-based childcare centers, parents should also make a point of requesting background check information on all adults residing in the home. Screening only the childcare provider does not ensure their spouse or other residents of the home a free of a questionable past. It’s especially important for parents to insist on background information when they’re considering a small, unlicensed facility. Because these businesses are not licensed, there’s a lack of governmental oversight regarding background check compliance.

Obtaining a Full Background Check

A thorough background check includes both state and federal criminal history by name and fingerprint, screening against the sex offender registry and a check of the child abuse and neglect registry. Parents who are interested in obtaining their own copies of these reports are generally expected to pay the costs of screening themselves, though some childcare providers will have a full report on hand to share.

Because privacy laws can differ from one state to the next, its imperative for parents to ensure they’re complying with all state, local and federal laws before conducting a background check. Some information, like credit reports and worker’s compensation information, can create legal complications if they influence a hiring decision. Depending on the laws in the applicable state and county, parents may need a record request form, along with a fingerprint request form. Local law enforcement agencies can normally provide these forms, as can the local Childcare Resource and Referral Agency.

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