Home Care In San Diego County – The Myth Of Federal Backgound Checks

How To Know If A San Diego County Home Care Agency Is LyingHow To Know When A San Diego County Home Care Agency Is Lying: When They Promise That They Do  A “Federal” Background Check On Their Caregivers

There is really no nation-wide, “Federal” background check service available for California-based non-medical in-home care agencies to use, at least not in the sense of it being a nation-wide, all states background check provided by some Federal government agency like the FBI.

  • The ONLY type of government-provided background check available for California-based in-home care agencies is only a state-level check through records available from the California Department of Justice (CalDOJ) .
  • In California, in-home care companies may NOT obtain background checks from Federal agencies like the FBI, due to California laws preventing such access for in-home care companies.
  • Therefore, any sort of “nationwide” criminal background check will have to be done by non-governmental (commercial) providers relying upon non-FBI records.

California Law Limits CalDOJ Reports To California Records Only

CalDOJ is certainly able to run FBI checks, but by law in California that option is only available to residential care facilities like assisted living facilities or nursing homes, not in-home care companies.

This is because the California legislature has decided that protecting workers with criminal histories and giving them a second chance is more important than the public’s right to know whether their in-home care worker is or is not a convicted criminal.

Non-Governmental, Commercial Background Check Options

So, what can in-home care agencies in California do in order to obtain criminal background information from convictions arising in other states?  We have to use commercial third-party sources which attempt to do searches based on searches of individual states’ or counties’ court records.

This is not great because:

  • It is unreliable in some cases because it relies upon a patchwork of paper and electronic records, subject to filing and transcription errors.
  • Also, many of them require that the employer specify which states to check, using information supplied by the applicant.  So, if an applicant has a criminal record in another state, is the applicant likely to reveal that information and admit that he or she has been a resident of that state?  Not likely.
  • Finally, it only provides a “snapshot” at that moment in time.  The employer could receive a “clean” report on an applicant and then be unaware if that applicant went out the following week and committed serious crimes.
    • The way that some (but certainly not all) agencies address this problem is by running a new report on existing employees at specific intervals after the initial date of hiring.
    • When we used to use these commercial background check methods years ago, we ran a fresh check on each employee’s employment anniversary dates.

The “Check Every Year On The Employment Anniversary” Method Isn’t Foolproof

This method, used by those who choose not to use CalDOJ LiveScan background cheks, fails if the employee commits a crime right after being hired if the hiring company doesn’t learn about the crime.

We know of one case where the home care employee was arrested for, and plead guilty to, shoplifting one month after being hired.  She successfully hid her arrest and conviction  from her employer by:

  • Calling in sick on days when she had to go to court.
  • Being sentenced to probation instead of jail time, so that she had no prolonged periods of absence.

She was able to continue working for that employer for several more months before leaving that company and moving on to work for another company.  The first hiring company only learned of the conviction when the employee later filed for unemployment and the facts regarding her conviction came up during her unemployment hearing when the first employer appealed the state’s charge to their unemployment account for her unemployment benefits.

As mentioned below, CalDOJ reports, on the other hand, have the advantage of providing the employer with subsequent arrest reporting, which alerts the employer to arrests that occur after an employee has been hired with a criminal history that was clear as of the date of hiring.

As an aside, think about this: if that second hiring company had done a state background check, they would have learned of her conviction.

  • Did they not do a background check?
  • If they did, why did they hire her?
  • Remember, when companies say that they run criminal background checks, you need to ask them what they DO if they find out that an applicant has been convicted of any crimes, even some which some people might consider to be “too small” or “irrelevant” to be considered to be a reason not to hire an applicant.

A Servant’s Heart Uses The CalDOJ LiveScan Background Check System

A Servant’s Heart Care Solutions requires all new employees to submit to the CalDOJ LiveScan fingerprint background check system.  There are three advantages to using the CalDOJ system:

  1. If the employee has committed a crime in California that is legally permissible to use as a basis for employment decisions, it will be reported in a CalDOJ report.
  2. By using fingerprinting, we can be confident that the applicant really is who they say they are, in addition to all the other ways that we check that by requiring identification documents such as driver’s licences.
  3. If the employee is arrested after being hired, the employer is notified via subsequent arrest reporting and can take appropriate action based on that report.

A Servant’s Heart does believe in giving people second chances.  However, we also believe that second chances need to be given wisely.

We believe that it is not wise to give second chances in ways that create significant risk for the frail and vulnerable population of elderly clients that we serve.  As a company and as a nation that honors and cherishes its elderly population, we have a duty to protect our elders from potential harm.



Tim Colling
Tim Colling

Tim Colling is the founder and President of A Servant's Heart In-Home Care, which provided in-home caregiving services in San Diego County, and also of A Servant's Heart Geriatric Care Management, which provided
professional geriatric care management services and long term care placement services in San Diego County. Tim has more than 30 years of experience in management in a variety of industries. He held a Certified Care Manager credential from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. Tim is also a Certified Public Accountant (retired), and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from California State University at San Diego. In addition to writing blog posts here for the Servant’s Heart blog, Tim also is a regular contributor to HealthLine.com and to FamilyAffaires.com as well as blogs of other eldercare services provider companies. Finally, Tim is also the president of A Servant's Heart Web Design and Marketing, which provides home care marketing as well as website design and online marketing for those who serve the elderly and their families.

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