Organizations know background checks help reduce risk, maintain a safe environment, and minimize liability. Every person that works with children, in any capacity, should have a background check completed. Questions that often come up are when, how often, for whom, how important is it really, and what happens if we don’t do background checks. Here are some general guidelines and information about background check policies and procedures.

Start by Creating a Policy
The first step, prior to implementing background checks, is to develop a higher level framework and policy for background checks. This should fit into your overall child protection policy and procedures. Determine who will have background checks, when, how often, what information to obtain from your employees, who will review the results of the background check, and how you’ll handle any concerns.

Once you’ve determined your plan, commit as a management team and full staff to always follow these policies and procedures – stand firm, no exceptions. This provides a consistent process should any possible legal issues arise. It also allows you to confidently assure parents your center is committed to child safety and everyone working with children in the kids’ area has undergone a background check.

Consistency is Key
Make a policy and commit to stick to it. Once you have a background check system in place, do not deviate from your background check standards. Any deviation can open you up to be liable for an incident and/or a negligence law suit. That means even those your organization knows and trusts must go through the same background check policy. This includes the employee already working at your facility for a long time who is now moving to the children’s area, or the owner’s child starting to work there. You know these people, however their role now involves contact with children therefore they must have a background check just like every other employee in those roles.

Consider the serious consequences if you don’t complete a background check on someone because you thought they were a good fit and something goes wrong. It can’t be stressed enough – do not allow for deviations from your policies and procedures. Should you ever find yourself in front of a judge or in a law suit, you need to have that consistent policy in place and prove you did everything you could to prevent the situation from occurring.

Employees Right to Know
American citizens and employers are within their rights to run a background check on any individual. Per the Consumer Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), “a background check for volunteers may be covered by the FCRA as well. To fall under the FCRA, a background check must be conducted by a third-party screening company.” The FCRA reports on an individual’s “credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living”.

To have a third party provide information about an individual, the individual must provide written consent in order to complete a background check. Also, if any information is uncovered in the background check that prevents the individual from being a part of your childcare program, should they ask, you must share that information with them. Anyone undergoing a background investigation has the right to know what is in their file that may affect them.

Third Party Review
Once a background check is completed, based on the results, you still have the choice whether or not to approve that person for a role in the kids club. Your policy should include having an unbiased third party examine the information and make a determination on anyone still in question. Leaving this to a professional, such as an attorney, helps keep your staff and organization from negligence or any personal liability for a misjudgment. Using a third party professional incorporates a level of checks and balances in your system.

If utilizing a third party is not a viable option, consider setting up a council made up of just a few trusted leaders and members in your organization to review background check results and decide on eligibility. Having someone with law or law enforcement experience would be beneficial. Do not just one individual complete the review as there could be bias or a possible increase in liability. However, if using a group, the total number should remain small as confidentiality and privacy elements are associated. When creating your policies and procedures, make sure your employee understands this information will be shared with the review board.

Ongoing Reporting
In addition to obtaining consent to complete the initial background check, your policy should include a signed written agreement by the employee noting their willingness to participate in future background checks; and that they will notify you of any criminal arrest or offense that occurs after they are hired. Include this signed agreement when you run your ongoing or annual background checks. This will help protect you by consistently monitoring their status long term. Some services will provide a constant monitoring system and update you automatically if there are changes to an employee’s records. Completing background checks every year is recommended.

Data Security
In addition to policies and procedures, you also need a solid, secure system to keep this information private so that you are not in breach of privacy. Keep all background check applications and result information in a controlled secure environment that is locked or password protected. This information should only be available for the authorized individuals or review board. In some cases you may upload this information into a secure encrypted cloud based system or you may keep files on hand. Either way follow the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse guideline that “personal information should be protected by reasonable security safeguards against such risks as loss, unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification or disclosure.”

Background Check Providers
When choosing a background check provider, keep in mind you want one that utilizes a true national criminal database search, and a state by state sex offender search. The National Child Protection Act (NCPA) of 1993 opened access to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) national criminal records files to schools, day care facilities and youth-serving organizations. This opened a potentially new avenue for screening out child molesters or other conduct that might pose a risk to the organization. However, access to the FBI’s files under the NCPA was contingent on a state law that granted access and by 1998 only six states had laws on the books allowing nonprofit organizations access to the FBI files. With so few states involved this is why the ability to search a true national criminal database search is so important.

Anytime and every time an employee is hired to work in, assist in, manage or be associated with your children’s area, they must first have a background check completed. It’s for the protection of the children, the statement it makes to parents, and to help reduce risk and liability for your facility. It doesn’t matter who the employee is, how long they’ve been working at your organization or if they’ve had one in the past. Consistent background check policies and processes are imperative to creating a safe and secure environment.