Nov 17, 2009

The importance of criminal background checks on who you hire

Many families caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s hire caregiver’s and homecare agencies to provide respite or continuous care. You need to be certain that your loved one will be safe and receives the proper care.....

By Angil Tarach
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I cannot emphasize how important it is to know who is coming into your home.

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Assist Guide Information Services (AGIS) published an article last year entitled Beware of Former Prisoner's Caring for Your Parents The article talks about prison guards advising soon-to-be released convicts that caregiving is an easy to get employment opportunity.

You need to know and understand that many individuals advertising as caregiver’s have been fired from agencies for poor conduct, theft, and other work related problems. With some experience in hand, these individuals go out on their own and advertise themselves as experienced caregivers'. They know how to present themselves as caring and professional, but their background and history might be very different than advertised.

You cannot pick out a criminal by the way they look.

In my own agency we meet and interview individuals who appear to be wholesome and caring. After a thorough background check we sometimes find that they have charges and convictions that include forging checks, theft, and even sexual assault. We check before we employ.

I worked for a very well known national long term care company on the Alzheimer’s unit of one of their facilities. A woman that worked there for quite some time as a registered nurse was found not to be a nurse at all. She presented herself as a nurse, and was hired without a thorough background check. When the company found out she was not a nurse she was terminated. She then threaten to kill the administrator and Director of Nursing. The company had to employ guards to protect the facility, patients and staff 24 hours a day.

If a nationally known company can be duped by a con artist, imagine what can happen in your own home. This is why I cannot emphasize the importance of thoroughly checking the background of individuals coming into your home.

Whether you hire an individual or an agency it is important to make sure that the person(s) being employed has undergone a thorough background by a reputable company. If you hire an individual directly you have to obtain the criminal background check on your own. If you hire from an agency, it’s important to find out if the background check has been done, and the results of the background check. An agency should have insurance and bonding, but this is not a substitute for the background check.

All criminal background checks are not the same. How do you determine that the check is up to date, thorough, and trustworthy? Any thorough background check should include database checks, national checks, state checks, county checks, and checks that include everything from name, residence, social security number, sexual offender, driving, credit report, and a check on educational background.

When a person is charged and/or convicted of a crime it typically happens in a county court. This is where the information is first entered into the system. It can take months, up to a year to get to and be entered into the state system. Without a county check a person can appear to be free from a criminal past when they may have committed a crime within the last few months.

My Visiting Angels agency uses the most thorough, up to date criminal background checks available. The company we use is Single Source. The owner of the company, Don Dymer, was a previous inspector for Scotland Yard, and knows the importance of thorough, up to date checks. His company can check county, state, national, sexual offender, name, residence, date of birth validation, social security, driving, and a host of other checks. We feel very comfortable and secure in what Single Source does to ensure we are hiring safe caregiver’s.

A lady named Lucia Bone started a nonprofit organization, called Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E , to educate the public and employers and certify companies are sending safe service providers into homes and businesses. The company was started in her sister, Sue Weaver’s, memory. Sue called a nationally known and reputable company to clean the ducts in her home. This company did not provide safe service employees because they sent 2 convicted criminals into her home. They subsequently raped and murdered Sue.

Single Source works closely with Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E to educate companies wanting to hire the best criminal background check companies available. You can find a reputable crimal background check company on the Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E website.

Many families and companies want to spare the expense of thorough and up to date checks, so they either forgo checks or get the least expensive checks available. A higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a better check, but you can be almost guaranteed the least expensive aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

My advice is to use a company listed on the Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E website if you are hiring individuals and need to obtain your own check. If you interview a homecare agency ask them about their criminal background checks. What type of checks they use, what company they use, and look into that company. If a company tells you they use the state police, remember that these checks may be months to a year old.

Some states require agencies to use the state police checks, so agencies have no choice. However, they do have a choice to obtain additional checks.

As much as I want you to think about the checks on private caregiver’s and agencies, also think about other service providers coming in your home. We just assume the cable man, furnace inspector, carpet cleaners, and others are safe because they came from a reputable company, just as Sue Weaver did. It is not unreasonable to ask a company sending a service worker about whether they have obtained a criminal background check on their employees and what type of check.

The time and possible expense you spend on checking who is coming to your home can give you some additional piece of mind. You still need to be alert to any discomfort you feel with a stranger in your home, and listen to that discomfort.

Here are some additional suggestions. Have two adults in the home on any initial visit. Do not leave check books, expensive jewelry, cash and credit cards out in the open. Listen to your intuition, and don’t hesitate to ask someone to leave your home if you’re uncomfortable.

There are over 400 Visiting Angels across the US and Canada. One significant advantage when hiring Visiting Angels is the ability to select your caregiver(s). Our process allows you to meet and interview any caregiver that will provide care. We bring the caregiver(s) to your home before service begins so you feel comfortable with inviting a stranger to your home. This provides comfort and ease with our client’s and caregiver’s. Meeting prior to the start of service gives is better than and more effective than having a stranger show up on the first day of care. We are very proud of this unique and comfortable care process.

It is my hope that the information and resources I have provided will keep you and your family as safe as possible!

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Original content Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Reading Room