Background Checks
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Complete Guide To Caregiver Background Checks

An elderly woman and her caregiver sitting on a couch together

Employers in the caregiving sector recognize the high stakes and responsibilities of ensuring the health and wellbeing of those in your employees’ care. The people in your care are often vulnerable and highly dependent on their caregivers, and it’s a priority to ensure their safety. Caregiver background checks can help confirm the qualifications and eligibility of job candidates who will be in positions of trust, providing you with a peace of mind and emphasizing your commitment to delivering quality care. 

In this comprehensive guide, we explore the importance of caregiver background checks, how they differ from other background checks, and the various legal requirements employers should keep in mind to maintain compliance. With a thorough understanding of the caregiver background check process, you can assure your clients and their loved ones that their wellbeing lies in competent and reliable hands.

What Is A Caregiver Background Check

A caregiver background check is a series of verifications that employers may conduct on a job candidate before they’re hired as a caregiver. Often used by home healthcare agencies and private individuals, these checks can look into a candidate’s criminal record, driving history, professional licenses, and more. They are often a vital tool in the hiring process, and may be required not only for new employees but also for volunteers in sectors where the well-being of vulnerable groups is involved, such as children, the elderly or disabled.

The purpose of a caregiver background screening extends to more than just validating a candidate’s professional ability; it also seeks to establish their personal integrity and determine whether they can be trusted with the duties and responsibilities of a caregiver. As such, these checks are designed to help employers ensure that they’re hiring the most suitable candidates for these highly sensitive roles.

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Caregiver Background Check Laws & Requirements

While there is no single federal law that encompasses what a caregiver background check should entail, role-specific federal legislation may exist. Criminal background checks for caregivers are often considered the baseline, as certain misdemeanors and felonies, particularly those related to violent crimes, sexual abuse, healthcare fraud, or drug abuse, are of keen interest for employers of caregivers.

States that participate in the National Background Check Program (NBCP) must require employers of home health aids (HHAs) to conduct the following background screenings:

  • A fingerprint-based search of state and federal criminal history. This search can return information about convictions and pending cases of federal crimes as well as crimes committed in any state that have been reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This can include felony convictions for healthcare-related fraud, theft, or other financial misconduct; Medicare or Medicaid fraud; or the unlawful manufacture, distribution, prescription, or dispensing of controlled substances.
  • A search of abuse and neglect registries including:
    • The federal Office of Inspector General (OIG) List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) which identifies individuals who are forbidden to work in a healthcare capacity due to criminal offenses such as Medicare or Medicaid fraud; patient abuse or neglect; certain felony and misdemeanor convictions; and suspension, revocation, or surrender of a license. 
    • State abuse and neglect registries, such as reports made by adult protective services, in the caregiver’s current state and any other states where the person has worked as an HHA. 

Employers of HHAs and similar caregivers that want to receive federal funding must conduct these background screenings even if it’s not required by their state. 

Additionally, each state has its own licensing requirements for HHAs and other caregiver organizations, often including specific guidelines for caregiver background checks. Your state may require verification of the current status of a candidate’s professional licenses or a search of the state’s central registry of elder abuse and neglect investigation records. To learn more about laws and regulations in your state, check with your state’s department of health or department of social services.

Given the complexity of these laws and requirements, it’s paramount for healthcare employers to understand and ensure compliance when conducting caregiver background checks. With this understanding, employers can be confident in the accuracy and robustness of caregiver background checks, assisting them in selecting the most competent and trustworthy individuals for caregiver roles.

What Shows Up On A Caregiver Background Check?

A caregiver background check serves as a comprehensive review of a potential caregiver’s past, which may include information like criminal history, healthcare sanctions, professional license status, and more, to provide a detailed picture that can help employers make informed hiring decisions. One key element of this screening is a criminal background check for caregivers. This screening returns information about state and federal criminal records to report any reportable misdemeanor or felony convictions in the candidate’s background.

However, a comprehensive caregiver background check will often include more than criminal history. Equally important to many employers is verifying the candidate’s employment history, education, and qualifications. By verifying past employment and education, employers can assess whether the caregiver has necessary experience and credentials for a role. Additionally, driving records are often examined if the candidate will be required to drive as part of their duties, providing insights into the potential caregiver’s safety and reliability.

What Disqualifies You From Being A Caregiver?

If certain information is returned or unable to be verified during a caregiver background check, employers may disqualify candidates from being hired. Certain elements, such as criminal convictions relating to healthcare fraud, drug-related offenses, or violent crimes, may make a candidate ineligible for employment due to industry compliance regulations or company policy. Similarly, inclusion on healthcare sanctions lists may cause an employer to disqualify a potential hire as hiring an individual on these lists makes the company ineligible for continued federal funding.

Moreover, fabrications or misrepresentations found during the verification of education history, past employment, and other qualifications can lead to disqualification. Other elements that may disqualify a candidate include credit history, which may provide insight into a candidate’s financial history, and incidents or license information found in a driving record, especially for roles where the caregiver might be expected to transport a patient. 

It’s important, however, for employers to remember that the weight given to different aspects of the caregiver background check can vary depending on applicable laws, the role’s requirements, and the specific vulnerable group the caregiver would serve.

How To Run A Background Check On A Caregiver

While healthcare organizations can choose to conduct caregiver background checks directly, many employers partner with a consumer reporting agency (CRA), like GoodHire. A third-party background check provider can help you speed the caregiver background check process with a streamlined workflow and faster turnaround times, while supporting compliance with applicable regulations.
When using a CRA, home health agencies should consider following these steps:

  1. Find a background check provider that is accredited by the Professional Background Screeners Association (PBSA), the only organization that accredits CRAs.
  2. Decide which background screenings to order for each caregiver position, taking into account which background screenings are required by the state and any accrediting organizations whose standards you need to meet. Be sure to also consider any additional checks outlined in your employment screening policy or contractual requirements. 
  3. Using a CRA can help support compliance with federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This includes informing candidates of your intent to conduct a background check and getting the candidate’s written consent prior to moving forward.
  4. Review the background check results. It’s important to follow all applicable laws and requirements regarding what information can disqualify a candidate from being hired. If a hiring decision is made based on information included in a background check, you must follow the adverse action process. Some states also have their own fair hiring laws with additional requirements.

How Long Do Background Checks For Caregivers Take?

How long background checks for caregivers take can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the type and scope of the searches being conducted and the jurisdictions involved. Broadly speaking, most background checks can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete.

For instance, a basic criminal record check may be relatively fast, being returned within a few minutes or taking only a few days, but if the check involves multiple jurisdictions or if it returns a potential record that requires further investigation, it could take longer. Similarly, verification checks for employment history, education, and professional licenses may also take additional time, especially if they involve institutions that are slow to respond or located overseas. 

Partnering with a CRA, like GoodHire, to conduct caregiver background checks can help simplify and speed the process. Our access to public records, databases, and court records deliver faster, more accurate results.

Caregiver Background Check Best Practices

Background checks are not just for home health agencies providing skilled nursing services; they’re a best practice for all organizations hiring caregivers. Employers should consider following a robust caregiver background check process centered on thoroughness and continual monitoring. 

Common caregiver background screenings include:

  • Criminal background checks for caregivers to show reportable felony and misdemeanor convictions that may indicate the candidate could be unqualified for work with vulnerable patients. 
  • Employment history and education verifications to confirm the candidate has the necessary experience, education, and qualifications for the job. 
  • Drug screening to test for the presence of illicit drugs and certain controlled substances that could put patient outcomes at risk. 
  • Driving record checks to confirm license type and status and report moving violations, license suspensions, and other restrictions.
  • Ongoing background checks after hiring employees. Post-hire background checks, such as continual checks of criminal records, regular drug testing, and professional license rechecks, can help employers act swiftly and decisively to maintain compliance and protect patient safety.

These best practices for caregiver background checks underline the commitment to safety and quality care by acting as crucial guardrails in the caregiver hiring and retention process. By diligently following these practices, home care organizations can mitigate risks and foster a care environment that is reliable, safe, and trustworthy.

Caregiver Background Check FAQ

Is a caregiver background check different than a background check?

Yes, a caregiver background check differs from a typical background check due to its specific purpose. It is explicitly designed to vet individuals whose role is to provide home health care and ensure that they are properly qualified and trustworthy. Apart from standard checks, like criminal history and employment history, caregiver background checks often incorporate additional screenings like healthcare sanctions, credit reports and driving records, depending on the role’s requirements.

When is the best time to do a caregiver background check?

The optimal time for a caregiver background check is after a conditional job offer has been made. Pre-hire screening ensures that any potential issues are identified before employment commences, mitigating any risks associated with hiring ineligible candidates. If an employer is working with a CRA, like GoodHire, they must comply with the federal FCRA. The FCRA mandates that before any background check is initiated, you must inform the candidate of your intent to run a background check and receive their written authorization before moving forward. 

How far back do caregiver background checks go?

How far back a caregiver background check goes depends on the type and scope of the check and any applicable state laws. For instance, some states limit how far back employers can look into a candidate’s criminal history, which is typically seven years. However, even in those states, for certain job categories—like caregiver roles where the safety of vulnerable individuals is a priority—these limitations may not apply, and a more comprehensive review of the candidate’s history can be conducted. Employers may wish to consult their legal counsel to understand these limitations and their implications to ensure a compliant and effective background check process.

Get A Caregiver Background Check Today

Employers of HHAs and other caregiver organizations can benefit from conducting caregiver background checks to help hire qualified candidates and keep patients safe. While it’s beneficial, the caregiver background check process can also be complex and time-consuming. Partnering with a professional background check provider, like GoodHire, can help simplify the process, speed hiring, and support compliance with applicable laws. Get started.

GoodHire Offers Fast, Accurate Background Checks

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The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

About the Author

author karen axelton

Karen Axelton is a Southern California-based freelance writer specializing in business topics.