Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 1: Staffing

1.2 Recruitment and Background Screening

1.2.0 Background Screening

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 5/22/2018.

To ensure their safety and physical and mental health, children should be protected from any risk of abuse or neglect. Directors of centers and large family child care homes and caregivers/teachers in small family child care homes should conduct a complete background screening before employing any staff member, including substitutes, cooks, clerical staff, transportation staff, bus drivers, or custodians who will be on the premises or in vehicles when children are present.

The background screening should include (1-4).

  1. Name and address verification
  2. Social Security number verification
  3. Education verification
  4. Employment history
  5. Alias search
  6. Driving history through state Department of Motor Vehicles records
  7. Background screening of
    1. State, tribal, and federal criminal history records, including fingerprint checks
    2. Child abuse and neglect registries
    3. Licensing history with any other state agencies (eg, foster care, mental health, nursing homes)
    4. Sex offender registries
  8. Court records (misdemeanors and felonies)
  9. Reference checks; These should come from a variety of employment or volunteer sources and should not be limited to an applicant’s family and/or friends (5).
  10. In-person interview; Open-ended questions about establishing appropriate and inappropriate boundaries with young children should be asked to all job applicants during the in-person interview; for example, “How would you handle a situation in which a child asked you to keep a secret?” (6). 

Directors should contact their state child care licensing agency for the appropriate background screening documentation required by their state’s licensing regulations. All family members older than 10 years living in large and small family child care homes should also have background screenings. Drug tests/screens may be incorporated into the background screening. Written permission to obtain the background screening (with or without a drug screen) should be obtained from the prospective employee. Consent to the background investigation should be required for employment consideration. Prospective employers should verbally ask applicants about previous convictions and arrests, investigation findings, or court cases with child abuse/neglect or child sexual abuse. Failure of the prospective employee to disclose previous history of child abuse/neglect or child sexual abuse is grounds for immediate dismissal. Persons should not be hired or allowed to work or volunteer in the child care facility if they acknowledge being sexually attracted to children or having physically or sexually abused children, or if they are known to have committed such acts.


Background screenings should be repeated periodically, mirroring state laws and/or requirements. If there are concerns about an employee’s performance or behavior, background screenings should be conducted as needed.


Properly executed reference checks, as well as in-person interviews, help seek out and prevent possible child abuse from occurring in child care centers. The use of open-ended questions and request for verbal references require personal conversations and, in turn, can uncover a lot of warranted information about the applicant.

Performing diligent background screenings also protects the child care facility against future legal challenges (2,3).


The following resources can help the director screen individual applicants:

  • If fingerprinting is required, it can be secured at local law enforcement offices or the State Bureau of Investigation.
  • Court records are public information and can be obtained from county court offices; some states have statewide online court records.
  • Driving records are available from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • A Social Security number trace is a report, derived from credit bureau records, that will return all current and reported addresses for the last 7 to 10 years on a specific individual based on his or her Social Security number. If there are alternate names (aliases), these are also reported on the Social Security record.
  • State child abuse registries can be accessed at Sex offender registries can be accessed at
  • Companies also offer background check services. The National Association of Professional Background Screeners ( provides a directory of its membership.

For more information on state licensing requirements regarding criminal background screenings, see the current National Association for Regulatory Administration Licensing Study at

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
  1. Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, 42 USC §9857

  2. Social Security Act, 42 USC §618

  3. Child Care and Development Fund, 42 USC §9858f(c)(1)(D), 42 USC §9858f(h)(1)

  4. Head Start Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center. 1302.90 personnel policies. Accessed January 11, 2018

  5. Alliance of Schools for Cooperative Insurance Programs. Best Practices for Child Abuse Prevention. Cerritos, CA: Alliance of Schools for Cooperative Insurance Programs; 2015. Published April 15, 2015. Accessed January 11, 2018

  6. Berkower F. Preventing child sexual abuse in your organization. Denver’s Early Childhood Council Web site. Published April 23, 2016. Accessed January 11, 2018

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 5/22/2018.