Child Abuse Background Checks: Search Database (Child Neglect, Abuse)

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Background Checks | May 14, 2024

Legal guardian stands outside of child's home as a police officer arrives during a child abuse background checks in on the home with a blue magnifying glass hovering over the house signaling child protective services to search for child neglect and abuse.

Child Abuse Background Check
Background check searches criminal records for child abuse charges, convictions, and court cases.

Whether it’s adoption-related or for foster care purposes, having a good understanding of child abuse background checks and the laws related to them is extremely important.

Child abuse background checks are designed to prevent crimes against children, including harassment, neglect, and abandonment. This special type of background check is similar to a daycare staff screening process or a babysitter background check procedure, except this type of history search accesses a number of databases to ensure that potential adoptive and foster parents will provide a safe, healthy environment for children.

They are also used to check on the well-being of any child where doubts may arise for a caretaker–whether it’s a biological parent or legal guardian.

When preparing to undergo a child abuse background check, the following information can be used to run a personal background record check before the agency does, which can be used to eliminate or identify any disqualifying instances.

Background Check Overview for Adoption and Foster Care

The background check process for prospective foster parents and other caregiver credentials and background investigations is detailed and lengthy for one reason: safety.

But, with so many different laws and unique kinds of checks being run it can be easy to get confused.

Screenshot child welfare link to child care background check form.

The U.S. government has stringent requirements for adoptive and foster parents, and the background check form can be accessed on its website.

In general, the basic goal of a child abuse background check is to assess potential foster parents on their suitability to raise a child, or at least have a child in their home. All of the background checks that are run through various databases are intended to ensure the child is going to a safe environment.

As is the case with caretakers for any vulnerable group, the background check is taken very seriously, and unlike some pre-employment background checks, there are several things that will automatically disqualify individuals from being able to take in a foster child.

Many of the checks that are run as part of the background process are the same from state to state. However, every single state and U.S. territory has unique laws and regulations in addition to those already determined by federal laws.

Most notably, criminal record contents as well as items present in background checks of child abuse and neglect registries will be the basic starting point for any foster care-related background check.

State Regulations for Child Care Services (Stopping Child Abuse)

The state regulations for child care services are different for every state, regarding the rules and regulations on who needs to be checked, what checks need to be done, and how often these checks are performed.

In addition to the unique regulations of each state, these statutes are all enforced by different government agencies in each state. In many cases, the state’s Department of Human Resources or even the Department of Justice will be in charge of performing the checks.

However other states may rely on an agency specifically for child care services. A list of the agency in charge of childcare provider background checks in each state is provided below.

Who Needs Records Checks

Anyone and everyone who will have unsupervised access to a child in a childcare program will need to undergo an in-depth background investigation process. This includes any staff members who will be alone with any children, volunteers who will be alone with them, and any other employees on the premises of a childcare facility who have unsupervised access. (A free-of-charge volunteer background inquiry is available through many state justice departments.)

With foster homes, every single individual who resides in the home will also need to undergo a comprehensive child care or child abuse background check. This applies to everyone who is 16 years old and up, so in some cases, even juveniles will be required to undergo a background check if they are living with a family that is considering foster care.

One of the few exceptions to the child care provider background check is that if the child being cared for is a relative of the individual, that individual will not need a background check. However, anyone else who is not related to the child will need a background check and if any non-relative children are being cared for by the individual, that person will still need to undergo a background check.

Types of Records That Must Be Checked

The basic federal regulations for a childcare provider background check include:

Graphic showing possible additional checks that can be required for child abuse background checks, including armed forces, domestic violence, international background checks as well as tribal and juvenile checks that can be done in the central registry check virginia, central registry lookup south Carolina, the Nebraska central registry check and other state contacts for child abuse registries.

  • FBI Identity History Summary Check (IHSC)
  • National Sex Offender Registry check (This is free to search by anyone)
  • State Criminal Registry check
  • State Sex Offender Registry check
  • State Child Abuse and Neglect Registry check

All of the above checks must be completed before an individual is able to work with children unsupervised. In the table below, the state forms and guidelines are provided for anyone who needs to get a background check.

In the case of adoption and foster care, these checks must be completed before the child is able to reside in the individual’s home for any period of time. For other child care facilities, employees who have yet to complete the above checks may work with children in the facility (such as nonprofit agencies), but only while being supervised by another member of the staff who have all the proper checks completed.

Finally, federal regulations also require that any individual who works with children in a childcare facility must undergo childcare background checks at least once every 5 years. However, many states require the checks to be more frequent such as every 3 years.

National Sex offender website screenshot for child care background check and level 2 background checks

Anyone who has been registered as a sex offender will not be able to pass a child abuse background check.

State-Specific Child Abuse Background Checks

There are several other checks that are commonly required at the state level. Not all states will have this history search mandated, but individuals going through the background check process should expect to undergo more checks than just the ones listed above because no state uses federal regulations exclusively.

Possible additional checks that may be required include:

  • Adult Protective Service records
  • Juvenile court records (these are typically sealed for employment background checks, but not for child care)
  • Domestic violence records
  • Specific checks for those who have resided outside of the U.S. (international background check)
  • Armed Forces child abuse registry check
  • Tribal program abuse investigation records

Process for Obtaining Criminal and Public Records Checks

The process for many of the background checks that are required is fairly straightforward, most often only requiring basic contact information such as a name, address, and social security number.

One of the slightly more tedious tasks that must be completed in order to obtain a child abuse background check is getting fingerprinted. The completion of a fingerprint-based background check is required for the FBI criminal history check, which is also known as an Identity History Summary Check (IHSC)

Fingerprint-based checks are also required as part of many state criminal history checks as well, so individuals will need two sets of fingerprints, one of these will be kept by the state police department that will be running all of the state-based background checks and the other set will be sent to the FBI for the IHSC.

Photo identification of some kind is also required. Be sure to check the state regulations to ensure the individual has an official photo I.D. Usually, a passport or state driver’s license should work fine as a photo I.D.

Finally, as is the case with most background checks, a signed release form will be required to allow the search of the individual’s records.

A list of the state agencies in charge of child abuse background checks, as well as links to foster care and adoption applications is provided below.

StateDepartmentApplication & Forms
AlabamaDept. of Human Resources, Child Abuse & Neglect RegistryChild Abuse/Neglect Central Registry Clearance Form (1598)
AlaskaDepartment of Health & Social ServicesClearance Form
ArizonaArizona Department of Child Safety Central RegistryForm CSO-1131A
Child Abuse Background Check ArkansasArkansas Child Maltreatment Central RegistryArkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry Background Check Request
CaliforniaCalifornia Dept. of Justice Bureau of Criminal Information & Analysis CACIBCIA 4057 Child Abuse Central Index Inquiry Request for Out of State Foster Care & Adoption Agencies
ColoradoBackground Investigation Unit Division of Early Care and Learning, CDHSFacility Child Abuse and Neglect (Trails) Request
ConnecticutDepartment of Children and Families CarelineForm 3033
DelawareDSCYF, OCCL Criminal History UnitDelaware Child Protection Registry Request Web Portal
FloridaFlorida Department of Children and Families Office of Child WelfareChild Abuse History Record Request for Child Placement 
GeorgiaGeorgia Dept of Human Services Attn: Child Protective Services ScreeningScreening Request Form/Application 
HawaiiDepartment of Human Services Child Welfare Services SectionConsent to Release Information from the Child Protective Services System Central Registry
IdahoIdaho Department of Health & Welfare Criminal History Unit Attn: CWISIdaho Child Protection Registry Check.
IllinoisDepartment of Family & Children Services Form CFS 689 
IndianaIndiana Dept. Of Child Services, COBCURequests for CPI/CPS history check
IowaCentral Abuse Registry Iowa DHSAuthorization for Release of Child and Dependent Adult Abuse Information
KansasAttn: DCF/Child Abuse and Neglect Central RegistryChild Abuse and Neglect Central Registry
KentuckyBased Services Records Management SectionForm DPP- 157 Background Check Request for Foster or Adoptive Applicants and Adolescent or Adult Household Members 
LouisianaLouisiana Department of Children and Dept. of Children & Family ServicesLouisiana Child Abuse and Neglect Clearance System (CANS)
MaineOffice of Child and Family ServicesChild Abuse Registry Background Check 
MarylandMaryland Department of Human Resources In-Home Services Social Services AdministrationBackground Clearance Form
MassachusettsMassachusetts Dept. of Children & Families Attn: Background Record Check UnitChild Protective Service (CPS) Background Record Request Form
MichiganDivision of Child Welfare Licensing Michigan Department of Health and Human ServicesCentral Registry Clearance Request – DHS-1929 form
MinnesotaMinnesota Department of Human Services Background Studies DivisionConsent for release of information from Minnesota state-wide database of substantiated abuse / neglect
MississippiMississippi State Department of Human ServicesForm Required: Child Abuse/Neglect (CA/N) Common Central Registry Application
MissouriMissouri Department of Health and Senior Services Family Care Safety RegistryFamily Care Safety Registry screening
MontanaRecords Request DPHHS/CFSDChild Protective Service Background Check
NebraskaNebraska Department of Health & Human Services Children & Family Services, Policy Unit Attention Central RegistryAPS CPS CFS Form
NevadaNevada Division of child and Family ServicesRequest for Child Abuse & Neglect Screening 
New HampshireNHDCYF Central RegistryForm 2501-Third Party Name Search Authorization
New JerseyDepartment of Children & FamiliesChild Abuse Record Information Check 
New MexicoCYFD Protective ServicesProtective Services Criminal Records Check (CRC)
New YorkOffice of Children & Family ServicesAdam Walsh Child Protective and Safety Act of 2006
North CarolinaNC Division of Social ServicesNorth Carolina Division of Social Services Responsible Individuals List (RIL) Information Request
North DakotaDepartment of Human ServicesChild Abuse and Neglect Background Inquiry 
OhioOhio SACWIS Registry Ohio Dept. of Job & Family ServicesOhio SACWIS Alleged Perpetrator Search
OregonOregon Department of Human ServicesCPS Background Check form
PennsylvaniaChildLine and Abuse Registry Pennsylvania Department of Human ServicesPennsylvania Child Abuse History clearance
Rhode IslandThe Department of Children, Youth and FamiliesRhode Island DCYF clearance request
South CarolinaSouth Carolina Department of Social ServicesSouth Carolina Department of Social Services Consent to Release Information 
South DakotaDepartment of Social Services Office of Licensure & AccreditationsRequest for Screening for Substantiated Reports of Child Abuse or Neglect
TennesseeDepartment of Child ServicesTennessee DCS Database
TexasCBCU TX Abuse Neglect BGCForm 2970 
UtahDepartment of Human Services Division of Child & Family ServicesChild Abuse Central Registry Request
VermontVermont Department for Children & Families Residential Licensing & Special InvestigationsForms for Child Care Providers
VirginiaVirginia Department of Social Services Office of Background Investigations – Search UnitCentral Registry Release of Information Form
WashingtonDepartment of Children, Youth, and FamiliesForm DCYF 23-041 
West VirginiaBureau of Children and FamiliesAuthorization and Release for Protective Services and Provider Record 
WisconsinDepartment of Safety and PermanenceForm Required: DCF-F-5065
WyomingDepartment of Family Services Central RegistryWyoming Department of Family Services Central Registry 

Understanding Abuse History Clearance

There are several records that may turn up as part of a child abuse background check that will automatically disqualify the individual from being in foster care or from adopting.

Unlike the records that may turn up as part of an employment background check, many records will be grounds for immediate disqualification. In many cases, there is no appeal process or assessment that may allow exceptions as federal and state laws dictate the automatic disqualification guidelines, rather than it is up to the discretion of the agency to decide.

Some of the more common grounds for disqualification include:

  • Conviction of felony child abuse or neglect
  • Conviction of felony spousal abuse
  • Crimes against children (Such as child pornography-related convictions)
  • Conviction of violent crimes such as rape, sexual assault, homicide, etc.
  • A member of the household has been convicted of any of the above crimes
  • A member of the household is listed on a sex offender registry
  • Conviction of a drug-related crime
  • Conviction of human, sex, or labor trafficking
  • Conviction of unregulated custody transfer.

Background checks can be a tedious and stressful process, but understanding the basic checks and why they are run can be a huge help. A child abuse background check is one of the most thorough, but knowing what is involved can make the process easier.

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Abuse Background Checks

What Shows Up on a Child Abuse Background Check?

Like many comprehensive background checks, criminal convictions, credit history, employment, and education will show up on the check, but also pending charges, pending court cases, and pending arrests, warrants, probation, and even juvenile records can appear on the background check.

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