Child Care, Foster Care, and Background Checks to Protect Minors

What Does a Daycare Background Check Include?

For parents, choosing a daycare is a major decision—and often a vital one, too, as many households today see both parents holding down their own jobs. Daycare is an essential resource for these parents who may otherwise have to sacrifice important sources of income to stay home with a young child. Selecting a daycare isn’t just about convenience; more importantly, it’s about finding a place where parents can feel confident in their child’s safety throughout the day. The daycare background check plays a critical role in establishing that confidence.

Parents want to know that a childcare organization has done everything possible to create a safe environment. Therefore, prospective daycare clients pay close attention to the various indicators of a secure childcare facility. These indicators typically include licensing status, insurance coverage, community reputation, and the type of background checks they use.

What does pre-employment screening typically include for these facilities? For business owners, understanding this process is key to creating the confidence that will attract new clients. Let’s begin by reviewing the law.

What the Law Says About Child Care Background Checks

There is no specific law at the federal level which demands a particular daycare background check for all providers nationwide. Instead, the government has assumed that each state should be proactive and responsible for crafting such regulations. Federal law stipulates this requirement and makes funding available for states only if those states follow federal guidelines on screening practices. 

Called the Child Care and Development Block Grant, or CCDBG, Congress revisits this law frequently to reauthorize additional funding for states. This funding helps create programs that support broadening access to childcare for more families. 

Congress periodically reauthorizes the grant and adds additional funding, such as when it poured more than $2 billion into the fund in 2018. Funding levels continue to increase effective 2023, topping more than $8 billion annually. However, to receive this money, states must follow some rules.

In 2014, Congress updated the law to mandate “comprehensive background checks” for any state-licensed or regulated childcare provider. The goal of the change was to encourage the adoption of more uniform practices nationwide and to increase protections for children. However, unlicensed or informal childcare settings are exempt from the law since “regulated providers” refer only to those with state licenses. State licensing typically requires meeting certain health and safety requirements, passing facility inspections, and ensuring the trustworthiness of all staff.

Let’s look at what the CCDBG mandates for states and how providers have responded.

What Should a Child Care Licensing Background Check Include?

In years past, the daycare background check each state required for licensed facilities varied from one state to the next. In some places, that’s still true even as the federal government’s deadline for CCDBG compliance has passed. However, most states have since adjusted their policies to abide by the nationwide call for “comprehensive background checks.” 

States that have adopted federal guidelines now require the following checks for any facility seeking licensure: 

  • FBI fingerprint-based background checks.
  • Sex offender registry checks. Facilities must consult the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) National Sex Offender Registry checks and any state registries or local repositories.
  • State-based child abuse and neglect registry checks.
  • State-based criminal history checks.

For the state-level checks involved in the process, employers must check registries and databases where candidates live and any state where they resided in the past five years. Compliance is an ongoing process, too. Facilities must repeat all these checks every five years for every employee.

County criminal history checks aren’t listed as part of the federal requirements for a childcare licensing background check. Even so, it can prove worthwhile for daycares to consider this additional screening. State-level criminal record repositories do not always include the latest criminal record information, as there can be delays in communication from county courts. Searching county records in places where the candidate lived over the past five years can add another layer of care to your due diligence, increasing confidence in each hire.

Remember, states usually only apply these to facilities subject to regulation. Not all facilities are stand-alone companies; individuals often run these concerns in their homes. Some of these in-home daycare facilities have regulated licenses; others do not. 

Unregulated in-home daycares typically may only care for a few children at a time. These daycares don’t need to meet the same standards as regulated centers but should strongly consider adhering to them to ensure child safety. Parents should give preference to daycare facilities that meet standard daycare background check and inspection requirements.

How Long Does a Child Care Background Check Take to Complete?

With a multi-layered approach to the childcare criminal background check in place, childcare providers and prospective employees alike may wonder how long it will take to authorize an applicant for work. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer or ballparked timeframe. Processes can vary considerably from state to state. FBI result times can vary but usually require at least a few business days of processing time after submitting fingerprints.

In some states, childcare providers have faced staggering delays in receiving background check results. These delays have stretched from days into weeks and even months. The result has been a high volume of requests and inadequate infrastructure at the state level. These problems are most prevalent in states where businesses can only rely on the state police to furnish criminal record requests.

In an ideal scenario, background checks shouldn’t take more than a week or two to complete before you have all the information necessary for consideration. However, it is important to be realistic about the process. Applicants and providers should understand that factors beyond their control may cause delays.

What Happens if Someone Fails Your Vetting Procedure

If a background check reveals prior convictions, is it automatically disqualifying for all candidates? Providers should consult state laws, as jurisdictions on who cannot work in childcare may vary. In general, a record is not an inherent barrier to getting a childcare job; however, violent crimes, serious felonies, and sex crimes will all tend to be inherently disqualifying. Even in these circumstances, you should still follow the FCRA guidelines on issuing adverse action notices.

However, there are exemptions allowed in some states, especially for minor and non-violent crimes. A state waiver form is usually a requirement for employing such individuals. Again, check your local laws, but remember to prioritize safety and reliability in your hiring practices without resorting to discrimination. Thorough background checks help reveal the facts you need to know when making these decisions.

Complying With the Law for Safer, Better Child Care Options

It is hard to overstate the importance of the childcare criminal background check. State laws require them for many providers, but parents expect your diligence in hiring trustworthy individuals. Building a process that includes as many resources as possible can create a safer environment for young children.

If you own or operate a child care center and want to learn more about criminal and non-criminal daycare background check options for your employees, check out our products page. Preventing child abuse and neglect starts with stronger screening.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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