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State-by-State Analysis of Criminal Background Check Requirements Finds Shortcomings; Cautions Families, Recommends Improvements

WASHINGTON, DC — Opportunities for abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by caregivers heighten the need to screen job applicants. Criminal background checks are an important screening tool, but families may develop a false sense of security, believing that their loved ones are safe, if they rely solely on a criminal background check, a new report from AARP stresses.

Criminal background checks can help prevent abuse by individuals with a criminal history or a history of abuse, but they are not a perfect tool and should be improved. Background checks may miss records, fail to uncover some crimes, or overlook a caregiver’s history of abuse or neglect that stops short of criminal conviction. These are among the findings of "Safe At Home? Developing Effective Criminal Background Checks and Other Screening Policies for Home Care Workers," a new report from AARP’s Public Policy Institute.

An increasing number of states 46 states and the District of Columbia — require background checks for some or all paid home care workers. Yet these state requirements show little or no agreement on standards, according to the report. For example, some states disqualify job applicants only for past criminal offenses against vulnerable people, while others exclude them for a DUI conviction. needs to exercise greater caution to protect individuals from neglect, abuse and exploitation by caregivers," said AARP Senior Vice President and Public Policy Institute director Susan Reinhard. "States need to ramp up the accuracy, speed and cost-effectiveness of criminal background check systems and add other tools as well."

State, county, FBI and other databases are not integrated and may have gaps and errors, the report concludes, and there is no single agency for families to consult for a comprehensive review of criminal records. Additionally, even a comprehensive criminal background check of multiple agencies shouldn’t be taken as total assurance, the report warns. Elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is underreported. However, improvements in criminal background checks can be made to increase their effectiveness.

"As the demand for home care skyrockets, everyone — policymakers, state, county and municipal officials, employers and individuals

The report makes a number of policy recommendations to help states prepare for growth in the population needing home care provided by government programs or by caregivers hired for parents or other loved ones, including integration of online data sources and information sharing between various state agencies.

In light of these findings, the report also recommends actions that both employers and families can take to help keep loved ones safe in addition to a criminal background check. These steps include: conduct reference checks, review credit histories, conduct thorough interviews, consider drug and alcohol screening and provide training for all potential caregivers.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP’s 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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