Comprehensive Criminal Background Check for Schools vs. Screening Child Abuse Registries

A criminal background check for schools is a fundamental element of safety in the hiring and employment process. However, schools and daycares are far from the only places where preventing abuse demands proper screening. In-home aides, care providers, nurses, and many others must undergo careful consideration. Many states have created registries that log all “founded” accusations of abuse against children to aid in this process. Some of those states now require checking the registry as part of a background check for employment.

Concerns about these registries and their effects are on the rise—especially as many more employers begin checking them, even when they don’t have to. Advocates worry this could unfairly disadvantage many people. Furthermore, some states have even started dismantling their systems. Why?

State Abuse Registries Might Not Accomplish Their Goals

In 2020, Georgia abolished its child abuse registry after just four years in operation. Social workers had dramatically reduced the number of “substantiated” claims they submitted, claims which would mean placing someone on the registry. In severe cases, an individual might not land on the registry for years as their court cases worked through the justice system. Legislators recognized that the registry was a confusing mess that was complicating hiring and school background check procedures.

Georgia still maintains a statewide, federally-required registry of abusers. After the abolition of the child-focused registry, cases did not rise, nor was there an increase in reported incidents. Employers still have a valuable resource to use, but not one that causes confusion and duplicates records.

Some Registries Could Reinforce Racial Biases

In Pennsylvania, the state’s abuse registry still exists, but recent academic research has also recommended abolition. Black parents disproportionately end up on the registry, even for incidents that often occur due to poverty—such as leaving a child home alone during a work shift. For those who land on the registry, that could mean years or even a lifetime of failing a pre-employment background check.

Pennsylvania has an appeals process for the registry—and 90% that make it to a judgment succeed. That indicates that there is an epidemic of over-registration for incidents that may not need to be barriers to employment. However, the process is maze-like and lengthy. Many don’t even know appealing is an option.

Should You Still Consult Abuse Registries? Pros and Cons

To recap, using abuse registries as a sole source for clearance on teacher background checks can mean encountering problems such as:

  • Old or out-of-date records
  • Incidents improperly reported or not at all
  • Records duplicated from other systems
  • Minor incidents that seem to indicate more red flags
  • Potential racial bias

As a result, employers should be very cautious about using results from these checks to clear or deny applications. Consulting them is mandatory in most states when conducting a child care criminal background check, and the law may tie your hands about who you can hire if a positive result occurs.

The problems with some registries don’t mean they have no value. On the contrary, they can still help you achieve better insight into a candidate. They can be one valuable part of a larger approach—but you shouldn’t rely on them as a source of truth.

The Advantages of More Comprehensive Child Care Background Checks

A multi-faceted strategy yields the most effective way to conduct a background screening for school employees and others who work with children. Again, a registry check can and should be a part of that effort—but you should engage with a more comprehensive process, too. Such an effort would involve ordering products such as:

  • A multi-jurisdictional criminal background check
  • A sex offender registry check
  • Employment, education, and reference checks
  • License verification, when applicable
  • Checking abuse registries and using your other reports to cross-check and confirm reports of abuse.

These efforts, combined with an EEOC-compliant hiring process that uses individualized assessments, can lead you to a fairer, more effective way of vetting candidates. At, we provide complete packages—including some tailored for the childcare industry—to help streamline your process for completing a criminal background check for schools and other educational institutions. Find out more about how to strengthen safety in your hiring practices today.

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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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