Incomplete Background Check in Child Custody Case

By Michael Klazema on 2/2/2013

Last May, an eight year old child from Rock Hill Parks was placed in the care of his uncle after the child's father was arrested for child abuse. The Department of Social Services (DSS) official, however, did not do a comprehensive background check on the uncle. The DSS officials taking care of the case did not follow proper procedures with the child. Instead of taking custody of the boy and formally placing him with the uncle, they agreed on a "safety plan" with the child's parents by placing him with his uncle. The county caseworker handling the abuse case did run a local criminal history check, but failed to do a state or federal background check. According to the uncle's records, he had spent time in jail for assault and battery with intent to kill.

According to DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus, "The child never left his family. The family knows more about family members." As part of DSS' kinship placement policy, it allows the family to recommend relatives who can take care of the child when they are taken from the home. In the case of abused children, Social Services opts to place the child with a relative to avoid foster care placement. However, the DSS is still required to conduct federal, state, and local criminal background checks before giving custody of the child to the relatives. If the relative is charged with any kind of crime against a person, they cannot be given custody of a child unless "the charge has been expunged, or if the criminal allegations don't indicate their inability to take care of children." Otherwise, they should be ruled out as a potential caretaker.

A preliminary check on the boy's uncle only looked at his local criminal history, but did not show any activities from the 1990s. The standard background check procedure would have turned up the uncle's felony conviction in 1995 where he plead guilty to assault and battery with intent to kill after throwing a concrete brick at a 21-year-old man's car. The uncle was sentenced to 18 years in prison but was released in 2006.

The child was removed from the uncle's custody in June, a month after his placement, for child abuse and placed with his grandmother. Shortly after, he was placed with his family again if the father abided by the "safety plan," which included DSS monitoring the family, the father taking anger management classes, and the child receiving counseling. The child, along with his four siblings, were taken out of their parent’s custody and placed in foster care in November after more allegations of abuse but were returned again when the judge could not find probable cause for removing the children from their home. The DSS caseworkers who failed to perform the background checks for the uncle went through disciplinary actions, though the nature of the actions was not released to the public.

When it comes to the safety of children, a supposedly trusted family member is not always the best choice. Procedures that stress the importance of a nationwide check and not just a local one are in place because so many criminals commit crimes outside the jurisidiction where the currently live or have lived.  For this reason, it is imperative that organizations use background check tools from trusted organizations like that offer comprehensive nationwide scans. This way, they can have access to thorough checks, such as the US Offender OneSEARCH, which searches nearly hundred databases for sex, violent, and drug related convictions. To look for other crimes, it is advised that they use the basic US OneSEARCH as well, as it searches over 450 million criminal records across the nation, including the previously mentioned offender files.

About - - a founding member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and cofounder of the Expungement Clearinghouse - serves thousands of customers nationwide, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies by providing comprehensive screening services. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with an Eastern Operations Center in Chapin, S.C., is home to one of the largest online criminal conviction databases in the industry. For more information about backgroundchecks’ offerings, please visit



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