Calif. care employees cleared before passing employee criminal history checks

Cleared Pre-Check ImageIn California, those who work for daycare centers and elderly care facilities — as well as those who wish to be foster parents — must undergo employee criminal history background checks. In addition, the California Department of Social Services requires that, if someone is arrested but not convicted of a crime, they must still undergo a background investigation prior to being reinstated, or “cleared,” as a potential foster parent or care worker. In February, it was discovered that the department has been providing letters of notification to facilities, clearing employees who had not yet undergone employee criminal history investigations. The notice to “inform you that this person currently has a criminal record clearance” allows employees to return to work before an investigation has taken place, because California “cannot delay someone’s ability to work,” and employee criminal history investigations may take anywhere from four to six months to complete. The investigations are intended to turn up repeat allegations and determine whether an employee should be allowed to return to work — even if they have not been convicted — on a case-by-case basis. The department’s goal is to ensure the safety of the facility’s other employees, residents, and those in their care by conducting these investigations. In the instances in which the charges are dropped, an employee is declared not guilty, or a conviction was not made, an employee may still get his or her job back following the investigation. However, even those who are arrested on felony charges are receiving clearance letters to work in daycare facilities and nursing homes — sometimes after being arrested for child abuse, attempted murder, sexual abuse and assault — before the investigations have been completed. (Those who are convicted of their crimes are unable to work in care facilities or allowed to foster children in the future, though there have been recent examples of negligent hiring.) The department began giving out these preliminary clearances after being threatened with lawsuits for the employee criminal history investigations taking too long for those who had been arrested but not convicted.  The department can later revoke the clearance if there is reason to believe an employee should not remain in his or her position. However, parents of children, as well as children of the elderly, expect their loved ones to be receiving care by safe, secure, screened people, and these clearance letters provide a false sense of security to those families.]]>

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