Pre-Employment Background Check Shortcomings in S. Carolina

For many living with serious disabilities, support from the social safety nets provided by the government are essential. Alongside tools such as financial assistance, professional caregivers can also provide important services that can improve an individual's daily quality of life. These caregivers have direct and often private, unsupervised access to their charges. Such a situation demands a robust and thorough pre-employment background check—but in at least one state, those checks aren't living up to the highest standards.

In South Carolina, state legislators tried to authorize the creation of an official abuse registry during their 2021-2022 meeting. However, the bill did not become law, and legislators haven't revisited the effort. In that time, the official state Legislative Audit Council conducted a review of the state's Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN).

Auditors quickly discovered very troubling information: according to the findings, the DDSN has no system in place to prevent the re-hiring of someone who lost their job because of abuse. In fact, auditors identified multiple cases when previous abusers got jobs within the department as caregivers again due to inaccurate paperwork. 

Why Home Healthcare Background Checks Matter So Much

Abuse by caregivers is a serious problem, especially when those under their supervision cannot defend themselves. Unscrupulous individuals can cause a great deal of harm very easily in such situations. A caregiver could physically harm an individual or even sexually abuse them. They might steal possessions or embezzle money. The risks are real, and unfortunately, such crimes do happen.

Vetting individuals for these jobs is a critical step. Many states have created abuse registries similar to the one rejected by the South Carolina legislature. Those states often mandate searching abuse registries as part of a broader employee background check program. While not a guaranteed way to weed out all bad actors, due diligence can stop the worst abusers from re-entering the system. 

Without a background check with employment history included, there's a higher likelihood that you'll miss important information. If an individual lost a previous job due to a termination, that fact may need to play an important part in your considerations. For now, South Carolina lacks the tools to simplify that process by making it a required part of hiring.

When Will South Carolina Correct the Problem?

This was not the first audit to reveal that the DDSN habitually fails to undertake this important protective step. It is at least the second time that auditors have pointed to serious shortcomings in the DDSN's background check and hiring procedures. However, no new bills have come before the legislature on the subject yet. The DDSN says that it would need more funding and staffing to be able to set up and operate such a database effectively. For now, the only option agencies have is to make an effort to contact prior employers for more information.

Being Proactive About Safety for Those With Disabilities

Without an abuse registry, it's challenging to deliver the level of confidence most individuals might prefer concerning home caregivers. However, that doesn't mean it's not possible to improve hiring safety. With a strong pre-employment background check procedure, agencies and private healthcare organizations can still gather key facts about a candidate's past. While officials wait on the legislature to act, organizations must do all they can to protect the vulnerable.

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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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