4 Reasons Why Background Checks Get More Credit Than They Deserve

If I had a nickel for every time I was told, very proudly and boldy, “We do background checks” when I signed up my kids for a sports team, summer camp or afterschool program…

Well, I’d have a whole lot of nickels.

You see, background checks get a lot more credit than they deserve.

Why, you ask? I have 4 good answers, but the most important one is: 

A background check reveals only when a person has been convicted of a crime. Not arrested for a crime and not when there is a plea bargain. (BTW, plea bargains happen quite a lot in child sexual abuse cases to prevent the child from having to testify in front of their abuser.)

Think for just a minute how many child predators actually get caught. Then think about how often there is enough evidence to arrest a person; and charge them; and then convict them.

Additionally, an individual could be arrested multiple times, but if they are never convicted, their background check comes back squeaky clean.

Reasons #2, #3, and #4 that background checks are too heavily relied upon: Background checks are not created equally. For example, does the background check…

flag felonies and misdemeanors? Or just felonies?

search a national data base? Or just state or county records?

flag convictions other than crimes against children? Domestic violence? Indecent exposure?

So, do I think background checks are useless?  Absolutely not. They are a very important part of the hiring process. They just shouldn’t be the entire hiring process. 

Youth serving organizations need to research and be very intentional about what level of background check they are using with their candidates, and parents need to be informed what exactly is searched and what is not.

Background checks are a very important data point, but they are most effective as one data point in a comprehensive hiring process.

Next time you sign up your child for an activity, be sure to ask about their child protection policies and when they proudly and boldly answer, “We do background checks!” you can now ask them what kind.

 And your child will be safer for it.