Childcare organizations and related agencies face some of the strictest requirements to meet for background check compliance—at least, in theory. As legislators in Texas recently learned, those requirements aren't always followed. In some cases, even when the process works as intended, some gaps could allow potential bad actors to slip into positions of trust. A new law before the Texas legislature aims to change that.
The current legislative effort stems from an unsettling incident at a foster care facility that contracts with the state's child agency. In 2022, that facility, The Refuge, hired an individual without thoroughly researching the woman's background. She then engaged in sexual misconduct with two children under the facility's care before the wrongdoing was uncovered. The woman was subsequently fired.
However, investigators quickly learned that the woman had been fired for misconduct at another state childcare agency once before. Administrators at The Refuge say they had no idea about this conduct and would not have hired the woman had they known. Lawmakers quickly recognized this as a serious failure of due diligence and a potentially dangerous loophole.
Texas Senate Bill 1849 was their answer, and the bill has recently gone through extensive debate, amendment, and voting in both houses of the legislature.
What Does the Proposed Law Say?
At issue is that there was no easy way for The Refuge to determine whether an individual had prior conduct complaints or problems in their past. These infractions would not typically appear on a regular background check without a criminal referral. However, multiple Texas agencies maintain "do not hire" lists based on these episodes of misconduct.
The new law proposes to create a single, linked, and searchable database of all the state's various "do not hire" lists. Childcare agencies could then search applicant names in the database to quickly check for past incidents. It initially passed the Senate unanimously before proceeding to the House for debate.
Texas Looks at Other Background Check Legislation
At the same time, Texas is also considering updating other elements of background check compliance and regulation. SB 182 would require employees of state family agencies to report when co-workers or others in the organization commit crimes. This creates a new "mandatory reporting" requirement for unlicensed facilities that did not previously exist.
Will These Bills Become Law?
Since the initial debate, both bills have passed both houses of the Texas Legislature. SB 1849, after amendments in the House, was re-passed by the Texas Senate. SB 182 may require additional debate and amendment processes before it receives a final debate and vote.
It is currently unknown whether Governor Greg Abbott will sign these bills into law. The governor's office has not signalled support one way or another. However, employers in the childcare space within the state should monitor these bills and watch for any news about the governor's signature. As states continue striving to protect children better, future updates to background check compliance procedures may be necessary.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments