Individuals interested in pursuing employment in the home healthcare field are required by law to undergo a caregiver background check. Although it may sound intimidating, a caregiver background check isn’t that different from the typical pre-employment background checks that are required for most jobs.
In fact, anyone can run one in seconds, if they know how.
Although the laws and regulations regarding what specific checks must be passed before someone can become a caregiver can vary between states, this complete guide outlines everything involved with a caregiver background check.
What Disqualifies You from Being a Caregiver?
There are a number of things that can disqualify an individual from becoming a caregiver, and most of them are related to criminal activity and uncovered during the background check portion of the hiring process.
Most care facilities are at least partially funded through federal programs, like Medicare and Medicaid. This means that in order to receive federal funding, these facilities must abide by the state guidelines for hiring employees who will be working with vulnerable groups.
Moreover, both state and federal regulations outline offenses that can disqualify caregivers from employment.
DIY Home Care Background Check
For individuals wishing to become a caregiver, performing a caregiver background check on themselves is an important early step in the process. Doing so can help uncover any information that someone interested in hiring them would eventually find.
By checking before an employer, applicants can rectify any mistakes that show up on a background check, identify any minor criminal records that could be removed through expungement or sealing petitions, and find anything else that may require an explanation.
Background checks can be run on an individual in a number of ways. Depending on the state of residence, various background checks can be requested on yourself through the state’s department of justice, court clerk, or local public records resources. There is also the option to run a fingerprint based background check on yourself through the FBI.
Although most people feel that they have a pretty good idea of what would show up on a background check, running one on yourself is always a smart idea because data entry errors with social security numbers and middle names do occur.1
Conduct Caregiver Background Search and Criminal History Screening
A caregiver background check and criminal history search is rather intensive (for good reason), so running a full background check on yourself will require multiple steps and working with multiple agencies to get all the information that is being requested.
The first step is to perform a local criminal history check. The steps to do this will vary slightly based on jurisdiction, but generally involves requesting court records from the county (or municipality) court clerk.
Keep in mind that in order to conduct a caregiver background check for professional reasons, the consent of the individual being checked is required. When scanning the public records of someone for personal reasons only (like checking out the person who was employed to care for a loved one), these checks can be conducted without consent.
Local Criminal Checks
To check criminal history and find pending charges, the local county clerk or court clerk’s office is the first step. The following process can be followed for any state or region:
Step 1. Find out where local criminal history information is stored (collected and organized).
In most jurisdictions, the local courthouse or county clerk’s office is the best place to start. Both the courthouse and clerks office should have a place where you can request records.
For example, someone who lives in Dallas County, Texas, should google search “Dallas County Court Clerk” and then choose the official government website (usually a .gov domain, but not always).
Step 2. Navigate through the site to find “public records” or “criminal records search” options.2
In Dallas County, links to the records are listed on the first page.
Step 3. Follow the site links to request criminal records.
Users can see that the first page is a legal disclaimer about the information.
Step 4. Enter the information required to complete the caregiver background check request.
In Dallas County, users may search for information using a name or a case number.
Keep in mind that certain records, such as juvenile records may be sealed and therefore unavailable.
In this instance, Dallas County keeps an online database available, which is easy to access and use. However, other smaller counties may not have information online, and applicants will need to follow the instructions outlined by the clerk of court or county clerk to garner the public criminal records.
An example of how to perform an online case search in California includes:
- Navigate to the California Courts website and select “Access to Court Records”, under the “Policy and Administration” drop down menu.
- Select “View All Courts,” on the right hand side, or enter the zip code into the search bar.
- Select the proper county such as Lassen County.
- Select “online case search,” and perform the search.
When conducting a check for personal or professional reasons, research state laws regarding court record information. Many times records will be held at the state level, or, in order to find arrest records, applicants will need to check local police departments or sheriff’s offices.
Checking Law Enforcement Records
If while searching a court clerks site, it’s difficult to find access to records and convictions, try searching local sheriff’s offices or police departments.
The process for a local check is exactly the same as for searching court clerk’s, but keep in mind not all local jurisdictions offer online search programs.
For example, for someone living in Harding County, New Mexico, when searching for public records, there is a form available for requests, and fees for copies of documents (usually less than $2). However, the criminal records are not housed there. Users can get public records, including:
- Mortgages and Deeds
- Voter Registration and History Records (these are public records throughout the country)
Many smaller counties outline the records request process on their website, or at the clerk’s office, which usually involves filling out a form and paying a small processing fee.
However, court records were not available. Shifting to the local sheriff’s office also didn’t discover any information for performing a local background check, so at that point, applicants should move to the state level criminal history search.
However, the process is the same for a local sheriff’s office or police department search.
- Navigate to the agency website
- Search for criminal records or background check links
- Complete the process outlined for requesting arrests, warrants, charges, convictions and other criminal records.
- Pay a processing fee to receive the report.
State Criminal History Checks
Most states keep public records available for caregiver background check searches, and these can easily be searched online or manually.
These records are often organized by state police departments. The following table lists the website for each state:
Credit Background Check
Running a credit background check on someone who is applying to be a caregiver is another important and common practice in the industry. This is especially relevant for individuals who will be working directly with the elderly.
Running a credit background check requires a slightly different process, as there is no state or federal database that deals with the financial records of individual citizens. This means that in order to have a credit background check run on an individual, a company that is authorized to run a credit background check must be the one to do so.
Individuals looking to perform a credit background check on a potential caregiver need to do two things.
- Find a reputable background check company to perform the check
- Gain consent for the background check from the individual that is being checked
A reputable background check company will be able to provide the necessary forms, to get written consent from the individual.
To conduct a credit check on yourself, the federal government ensures that citizens may check all three major credit bureaus for free, once each year. The Federal Trade Commission outlines the process for obtaining the free yearly report.
Sex Offender Registry Check
Another useful tool in a caregiver background check is to perform a search on the national sex offender registry. The national sex offender registry will have information on sex offenders that can include the following:
- Date of Birth
- Crime committed
Keep in mind that the information that is available will depend on the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. The laws surrounding the publicly available information of sex offenders ranges widely based on the county, state or city. In some instances, only limited information will be available on the sex offender registry, but it is still a useful database to search.
Keep in mind that some of the information available on the sex offender registry is provided by the individual sex offenders themselves. This means that in the case of information such as the address of the offender, the information may be incorrect if the offender moved without notifying the proper officials, as they are instructed to do by law.
Although a sex offender registry search is free, it should not be the only database checked, due to potential inaccuracies. In most cases, hiring a reputable background check company will result in a far more thorough check.
Detailed steps on how to perform a sex offender registry check are outlined below.
- Navigate to the United States Department of Justice National Sex Offender Website.
- Enter the name, or location information for the individual being searched.
Clicking on the name of the individuals should take users to the state sex offender registry website for where the crime was committed.
For example, if the search yields results on an individual who committed a crime in Colorado, clicking their name will take users to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation website, where more information may be available.
Nationwide Search for Caregivers Criminal History
Performing a nationwide criminal history search is an important part of any caregiver background check. Most state level and local criminal history checks will only show convictions in a specific state.
If the person was convicted of a crime and then moved to a different state, in many cases this information will not show up on a local criminal history check performed in the current state.
A national criminal history search will turn up convictions that have occurred anywhere in the country. Depending on how the search is completed, information such as arrest records, warrants and more may also be available as part of the national criminal history check.
Caregiver Background Check Laws
In order to become a caregiver with a licensed Home Care Agency, a national criminal background check must be performed by law. The check is fingerprint-based and is usually performed by the FBI.
The process usually involves getting fingerprinted by an official fingerprinting service. This service will usually send the fingerprint and information of the individual to the FBI who will conduct their search and report any findings to the company that requested the check.
For those looking to conduct a national criminal history search for a prospective caregiver privately, the best option is to go through a Credit Reporting Agency. A credit reporting agency will have access to databases and records that are not available to the public, allowing them to find criminal history information on an individual from any state, federal criminal history information and more.
If hiring a CRA to perform the background check, consent to run the check must be acquired from the individual being checked. When hiring the CRA, be sure to request a national criminal history check.
Are Care Provider Companies Required to Conduct Caregiver Background Checks?
Care provider companies are not federally required to conduct caregiver background checks. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services National Background Check Program operates to encourage background checks for all caregivers (and anyone with direct patient access), but it is not required.
However, nearly all states have laws on the books that require caregivers and other health related workers to undergo a national criminal background check. But, each state has its own laws and regulations regarding background check procedures that care provider companies must use.
Some states, such as New Mexico, have created their own policies and guidelines to reduce the mistreatment of protected groups. Links to state laws involving care provider companies and home health agencies are provided in the table below.
What’s Included on a Caregiver Background Check?
A caregiver background check is more thorough than most employment background checks. Even among healthcare workers, the background check that is generally required for caregivers is slightly different.
A caregiver background check will normally check a variety of databases and registries. Unique aspects of a typical caregiver background check include:
- Fingerprint-based search of criminal history conducted by the FBI
- Search of abuse and neglect registries at both the federal and state level.
- State health board disciplinary actions
The above searches are conducted in addition to criminal history searches.
Enhanced Disclosure and Disbarring Service Checks (DBS)
Enhanced Disclosure and Disbarring Service Checks (DBS) are background checks used in the United Kingdom to examine and search a person’s criminal history, and are used to screen applicants who work with vulnerable individuals.
The purpose of a DBS is to run a thorough background check on potential employees to search for any information that would indicate that they are a danger to the vulnerable patients that they are working with. There are different guidelines for what determines someone to be a part of a vulnerable group but the two most common are children and the elderly.
Certain information that is uncovered as part of a DBS check will disqualify individuals from becoming a caregiver, most notably, if the individual shows up on a “barred list.” There are two different barred lists, one for children and one for the elderly. Whether or not this will disqualify the individual automatically will depend on which list they showed up on, and which group they would be working with. If children are receiving care, a child abuse background check is almost always required.
Showing up on a barred list is not the only thing that will disqualify an individual, however other disqualifying offenses will be up to the care facility that is making the hire, and is ultimately up to their discretion in many cases.
How Long Does a Caregiver Background Check Take?
Like all background checks, there are a number of different factors that will impact how long the actual check takes.
Background Checks Through a Professional Service.
When running a background check through a credit reporting agency, the length will vary depending on the type of checks requested. Name-based checks such as criminal history, education, or searches of various registries can take as little as a few hours or perhaps a 3-5 days.
If a fingerprint based check is requested, this will significantly increase the amount of time it takes to get the results. Fingerprints often must be physically mailed to the FBI and the FBI will then take up to 30 days to perform the search.
However, when using an agency that utilizes digital fingerprinting processes, results should be available in less than two weeks.
DIY Background Checks
For those that elect to do a background check without using a professional service, the results are often far quicker for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason for a quicker turnaround time is due to the fact that there are only so many databases and records that are publicly available.
State and Local criminal history checks can be completed in as little as a few hours and up to a few days depending on how the records are being gathered. However, it’s important to consider the added fees when performing the search. Each database and record request will come with a fee, and these can add up if more than one state is involved. The same is true for the time frame.
Generally, it’s safest for an individual to use a professional background check service to check out a caregiver. This avoids any potential liabilities.
Can I Be a Care Worker with a Criminal Record?
Individuals can still become care workers if they have a criminal record. Like most jobs, the nature of any information found on the criminal history check will determine whether or not they will be hired.
In the case of Home Care Provider jobs, any convictions involving protected groups are generally grounds for the employment offer being rescinded.
However, other crimes may be overlooked. Whether or not a conviction is overlooked is usually decided by the hiring manager or company that is screening the applicant.
Moreover, if the offense was sealed or expunged, it won’t be considered.
Although it can get confusing with states having different regulations for Care Provider companies, the background checks required for caregivers are only slightly different than a typical background check. Always be sure to check a state’s regulations and requirements for what’s needed for a caregiver background check, to avoid violating any state or local laws.
1Neighly, Madeline. CNN. 2 September 2013. The faulty FBI Files that Can Ruin Your Life. 16 February 2022. Web. <https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/02/opinion/neighly-fbi-background-checks/index.html>
2Dallas County. Online Resources. 2022. 16 February 2022. Web. <https://www.dallascounty.org/services/record-search/>