Youth-serving organizations that are conscientious about background checks often overlook another important resource for screening staff, namely state child abuse registries. Most states have some sort of registry that compiles substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect. While the registries often are not open to the public, organizations that serve minors usually have some sort of access to them.
Georgia’s registry, for example, allows employment-related inquiries from licensed entities that interact with children or are responsible for providing care for children. North Carolina provides information to “child caring institutions…and other providers of…child care…that need to determine the fitness of individuals to care for or adopt children.” Thus, child care centers in both states can access the registry. Currently, the licensing bodies for both Georgia and North Carolina will conduct the check for child care centers as part of their required comprehensive records checks.
Georgia’s restriction to licensed programs means that unlicensed organizations, such as camps or church nurseries, cannot inquire directly. In North Carolina, it is not clear whether camps and mentoring organizations would qualify as “providers of child care.” Thus, those programs may not be able to get information directly from the registry.
However, such programs usually can obtain the information indirectly, by requiring prospective employees or volunteers to obtain their results and provide it to the program. Applicants who have lived in other states can visit the Georgia DECAL or visit Adopt Us Kids to get the contract information for those state registries.
The time for getting a response varies from state to state. Check with your state about whether you can have the employee/volunteer start working in your center before you get the registry clearance. At a minimum, require proof that your prospective employee/volunteer has requested the information and an estimate of when you can expect to receive it.
The standard of care for youth organizations is constantly changing. With the widespread implementation of child abuse registries, be certain that your program has a plan for checking those records (when possible) for prospective employees or volunteers.