Labor and Employment

Background Checks for People Who Work with Kids

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Day camps, summer camps, and day care centers are popular with a parents, especially in the summer months when schools are closed. With both you often both work outside the home, someone needs to watch your children during the workday. Many of these programs offer the added benefit of filling the kids' days with all sorts of activities. Everyone wins: The children have fun and even learn some things, and you're free to work.

Of course, the safety of the children is an important consideration for parents, employers and state lawmakers. It should come as no surprise that background checks or screenings are usually involved when it comes to hiring workers to help with the children enrolled in the day and summer camps or day care facilities.

Whether you're a parent, run such a business, or looking for work in this field, you should know some things about background checks.

Type of Facility or Program Matters

You may think that anyone involved with working with kids must go through a background check. That's not so, however. Whether you're looking into a summer camp, day care center, or day camp, you should investigate and ask about the program's policy on screenings. You should also check the laws in your area about screening requirements, or ask your attorney. In general, though:

  • If a day or summer camp or a day care center is run by a city or county agency, like a recreation department or parks service, or by a state-funded school (a "public school"), the facility or program typically has to have a license that's issued by the state or local government and its workers and volunteers have to go through background checks
  • If the facility is a true "child care" center or facility, like most "day care" or "child care" centers, it typically must have a state-issued license and each worker and volunteer must go through a background check
  • "Private" summer or day camps, that is, those run by churches or privately owned businesses during the summer months only, may or may not be required to have any type of license or conduct any background checks on their employees and volunteers. It depends upon the laws of the state where the camp is located

Background Checks

Because the main purpose or goal is to make sure that children are safe while attending a day or summer camp or daycare center, a background check on a worker or volunteer may be very thorough. Generally, an employer has to get "consent" or permission from a job applicant, worker or volunteer before a background check can be done. A good background check will:

  • Verify name, current address and social security number
  • Search criminal records using the person's name, aliases or other names used in the past, in addition to the maiden name female applicants or workers. The main purpose of the screening is to see if someone has been convicted of any crimes, especially sex-related crimes and crimes against children. A good search for criminal records will look in as many states, counties and cities as possible, as well as all national sex-offender registries, but should include a search of the state and county where the camp or facility is located
  • Review the person's driving record. Contact the motor vehicles agency in the state where the camp or facility is located, as well as in any state where the worker, applicant or volunteer once lived
  • Check court records. To find out if the person has ever filed or "declared" bankruptcy, or been involved in a civil (non-criminal) lawsuit, such as being sued for not paying a credit card debt or not repaying a loan
  • Confirm college or other educational degrees
  • Check the person's credit. The worker, applicant or volunteer has to give an employer permission to run a credit check

Ready or Not Here They Come

Applying for Work

Be ready to answer some personal questions and to allow a background check. Have your information ready, in addition to any references you'll be asked for.

Owning a Camp or Facility

Consider running background checks, if you don't already do so. Your concern should be with the safety of the kids you're watching, and these checks go a long way towards keeping them safe. Also, if you don't perform a check and a worker or volunteer harms a child in your care, you may be held responsible for anything that happens.

You'll also want to have your employees covered by insurance. This way you won't have to pay claims out-of-pocket if something does happen.

Parents & Guardians

Protect your child by asking questions and researching the camp before you send your child there. Read any literature the camp or facility has, and look for or ask about its policies on background checks. Ask if you can do some additional checks.

Talk to other parents and children who've used the camp or facility in the past. Doing these things will help make it a worry-free summer.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • When I applied for a job at a summer camp I was told that I wouldn't be hired unless I agreed to let it check my credit history. Can it do that?
  • Can I charge a job applicant for the costs of the background check?
  • My background check came back with false information about "my" criminal record. How do I get this corrected?
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Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C.

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Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C.

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