Criminal Records Check

The police won't allow anyone to become part of the "Block Parent" program without a criminal record check. After all, entrusting a child's care to someone other than his/her parent or guardian is serious business.

The same holds true for anyone hired by a daycare centre or daycare home agency. Daycare licensing regulations mandate that a director do a complete reference and criminal record check of every employee they consider hiring, be they a janitor, teacher or volunteer. Likewise all persons looking to operate a licensed family daycare home must go through the same criminal record check, as must any other persons over the age of 18 residing in the home. It's the law

Criminal record checks relate only to those crimes that pose a 'risk' to children: crimes such as child abuse, sexual abuse, violence, drug-related offenses, and so on. Actions that in no way could endanger a child are exempt and are generally not reported by the Central Agency responsible for criminal records.

Verifying Records

The process for verifying a criminal record is relatively simple. Applicants sign a consent or authorization form allowing the employer to investigate their criminal background as part of the application process. Consent forms are forwarded to the Central Agency who review the applicant's criminal record. If no child-related offenses are recorded, the employer is advised that no record exists. If a record is found, the Central Agency process the information to determine the relevance to physical or sexual abuse.

When a possible record is suspected, the employee is asked to provide the police with fingerprints. The employer is notified as to whether or not the fingerprints are a match. If they do, the criminal record is handed over to an adjudicator who then determines whether the employee is a risk to children. The adjudicator's findings are related back to the Central Agency who notifies the employer of the findings. If there is a possible risk to the children, the employer must then make a hiring decision based on local licensing regulations.

Unfortunately, criminal record checks only screen out those who have been "convicted" of crimes that would put children at risk. They are merely a safety net in that respect and cannot protect children from all abusers. As the Child Care Action Campaign notes in their Information Guide 5, Do Criminal Record Checks Protect Children?, "Most abusers harm many children without ever being accused or tried. Some may have been arrested but not convicted because of the difficulty in proving the crime." And, the CCAC notes, "Most adults who abuse children have no prior convictions."

Good News

The good news is that criminal record checks do help to screen out a number of applicants who do not belong in the daycare field. They are a valuable tool in the fight against child abuse. It is highly recommended that parents who use unlicensed family daycare or hire an in-home caregiver use a criminal record check when screening potential caregivers. The authorization to look into an applicant's criminal background can be incorporated as part of the application form. Parents can assure an applicant that they are in no way trying to infringe on the applicant's rights, but the rights and well being of their child supersede any possible hard feelings the caregiver may have.

While criminal record checks do provide some protection for children, parents MUST monitor the care their child receives. Daily visits to the centre combined with good communication are essential.

For more information on criminal record checks and consent forms, contact your local police department.