It’s never acceptable for people to be put in danger or suffer due to laziness or corner-cutting. When the victims are children, the situation becomes all the more heinous.
While we normally like to highlight case studies of our clients who have been able to benefit from quality, custom background screening services, in this instance we feel the need to call out two situations where someone really should have called us – or any professional for that matter – rather than failing the children in their care so badly by cutting corners and not doing their due diligence when hiring.
The (should-have-been) Clients
Both of these example organizations – a state agency in Kansas and the state-regulated child care industry in Virginia – have a mission to improve the lives of children by ensuring they’re cared for and protected, either through daycare programs or foster care. In both cases, widespread neglect in the area of employee background screening has led to danger and even untimely death.[a1]
The Kansas Department of Children and Family
Following an audit that resulted in a scathing review of the state’s Department of Children and Family (DCF), Kansas DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore was forced to defend herself and her agency against a number of troubling claims:
- For licensed foster homes, background checks were performed every three years, on average, rather than as part of the annual renewal process, potentially putting children at risk.
- In 59% of the cases audited, poor documentation made it impossible to conclude whether required monthly visits to licensed foster homes had been made by DCF case managers.
- Similarly, poor documentation made it difficult to determine if foster care contractors had made required visits to the homes.
- During one 15-month period, DCF granted 98 percent of about 1,100 requests by foster care contractors to waive capacity limits and sleeping space requirements for foster homes. (These requirements are in place to ensure foster children have adequate sleeping space and privacy, rather than living in orphanage-like environments.) Auditors found no evidence that DCF reviewed the requests prior to approval.
Kansas Democratic Representative Jim Ward called for Gilmore’s resignation, stating, “I’m not comfortable gambling the future of our children in unsafe home environments. Now is the time to step up and get serious about improving a broken system that is failing Kansas kids. The first step toward that is getting new leadership at DCF.”
This audit and subsequent call for resignation came following the DCF’s recent out-of-court settlement of a federal lawsuit, as reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal: “A lack of monthly in-person visits was among allegations raised in a federal lawsuit against DCF and foster care contractor TFI Family Services over the 2013 death of 4-year-old Mekhi Boone. The mother of the Hiawatha boy charged that foster care workers hadn’t made required visits before the boy’s beating death at the hands of his father.”
While the lack of consistent, appropriate background checks is just one of the many issues impacting the Kansas DCF, it’s important to note that if standardized and thorough background checks had been completed, the subsequent lack of regulated visits and poor documentation would likely have had a less chilling potential impact on the children who rely on the state’s foster care system, since we could more confidently confirm they were being cared for by qualified and loving foster parents.
The Virginia Child Care Industry
Early in 2012, young parents Elly and Cameron Lafkin of Harrisonburg, Virginia, dropped off their 3-month old daughter, Cami, at the home of a daycare provider they’d heard good things about. They’d done a cursory background check of their own online and found nothing to raise suspicions about the woman, and they trusted her with their precious baby girl.
Just a few weeks later, they experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when they received a call that Cami had been rushed to the hospital, unresponsive. Despite the doctors’ best efforts, Cami was pronounced dead shortly after they arrived at the hospital.
The subsequent investigation revealed horrifying facts that Elly and Cameron desperately wish they’d known prior to settling on the childcare provider they chose:
- The woman had a lengthy criminal record and was currently on probation for a felony conviction
- She had no fewer than 5 aliases in use, making the Lafkin’s cursory online background check fruitless since all the negative history was attached to other names
- She also had methamphetamines in her home at the time of Cami’s death
At the time, in the state of Virginia, the childcare industry was unlicensed and very loosely regulated. No state-mandated background check was required for anyone to open an in-home daycare operation, and no inspection process was in place to ensure the home itself and the caretaker were safe and qualified to care for children.
It’s sad that the death of an innocent little girl was necessary to bring these issues to light, but we’re at least encouraged to report that “Cami’s Law” – a bill proposed by Elly Lafkin’s Cami’s Campaign foundation, and signed into law in 2015 – has now made daycare centers in the state of Virginia a licensed industry, subject to appropriate state-mandated regulations including thorough fingerprint background checks and additional procedures intended to ensure daycare providers aren’t hiding anything from parents who deserve to know exactly who’s watching their kids.
Both these unfortunate stories clearly highlight the value of thorough background screening procedures. Whether your company is actually involved in child care or not, no doubt you can understand how important it is to ensure that your hiring process includes the right level of background screening protection for the safety of your other employees and customers.
The Optimal Solution
The best option for government agencies and private companies alike is to partner with a professional employee screening company with proven experience performing thorough pre-employment background checks that are customized to each position’s specific hiring needs.
While settling on a quick, simple, one-size-fits-all background check procedure can seem like a quicker and more economical solution, you can see from the situations described above that it’s not worth hiring someone whose past actions indicate they’re an unacceptable risk. Working with the right partner will save time and money in the long run by mitigating that risk and ensuring you receive a comprehensive screening of every candidate.
Working with the right professionals will also provide you with access to the tools, skills, and experience needed to keep the process streamlined and stress-free. When looking for the right employee screening partner, make sure to ask these questions:
- Are you FCRA-compliant? Complying with FCRA guidelines ensures the background check company is always up-to-date on the latest legal requirements and best practices.
- Are your result reports easy to read and understand? Reporting sources (i.e. county, state and federal courts) can be written in what seems like different languages, using different descriptions and acronyms for almost everything. The right background check partner will deliver reports you can clearly understand without the help of an attorney.
- Do you have capacity to coordinate additional screening? Value-added services like drug screening, skills assessments and behavioral assessments can provide additional pre-hiring insight, especially if you are on the fence about hiring someone.
- Do you provide live support? The ability to call or email your background screening company and knowing you’re going to get a quick response goes a long way in helping you make the best decision.
NationSearch is an FCRA-compliant employee screening service focused solely on conducting background verifications that are designed to be easy, and effective for applicants and employers alike. We customize the background check process to ensure the results are always specific and relevant to your company’s specific needs.
We know the employee background screening process can be confusing, stressful and time-consuming. We make the process seamless by providing efficient, timely methods and delivering critically accurate results.