Background Screening Tools Help Agencies Keep Young People Safe

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Need a refresher on screening potential employees and volunteers to make sure there's nothing in their background suggesting they shouldn't work with youth? A new guide from the U.S. Department of Justice can help. Published in June, “What You Need to Know About Background Screening" (PDF, 3.59MB) will introduce you to tools for searching criminal history and child abuse records and help you develop a consistent screening process if you don't already have one.

The guide provides good advice for dealing with the challenges of doing background checks. For example, there is no comprehensive national screening tool, and it can be difficult to access some child abuse registries. Here are some of the authors' suggestions for overcoming those challenges:

  • Nationwide and state criminal-history checks: Depending on what state you are in, you may not be able to conduct a nationwide search to find out if applicants have criminal histories. Understand your state’s laws and regulations before creating an internal screening policy, and make sure to conduct screening in every state where an applicant has lived when national searches are not an option.
  • Child abuse registries: Although access to state child abuse registries is often restricted, you can typically request a search in order to make an informed hiring decision. Registries do vary from state to state, however, with some states only listing individuals with substantiated reports and others listing all reports and investigations regardless of their outcome.
  • Reference checks: Check references so you can verify information shared by an applicant or uncover areas that need further exploration. You can also ask references to share contact information for other individuals not listed on the application.
  • In-person interviews and observation: Get a feel for the applicant in your face-to-face interactions and observations. Even if someone does not have a criminal background, for example, he or she may raise red flags during an interview by asking inappropriate questions or showing extreme interest in the age and gender of youth served.

Read the full guide (PDF, 3.59MB) to learn more about how to create screening policies and procedures, how to conduct background checks and how to act on the information you find.

“What You Need to Know About Background Screening"  was developed by the DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services Office in collaboration with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.


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