People sometimes find themselves in a situation where they wonder if it would be appropriate to do a background investigation about someone. It’s not always easy to decide what the appropriate situation might be to do such a check. More often than not, however, an emotional process takes place which prevents a person from going forward on that investigation.
That process is actually the biggest problem today when investigators or detectives deal with people about something that has happened in their lives requiring that someone be “checked out.” As a society, we feel guilty about not trusting someone, worry that a person will find out we are checking on them, even though there are circumstances which invite, almost require that we do so.
Would the FBI or CIA hire someone but feel guilty about doing a background check? No; of course not. It even sounds ridiculous to mention it. Why? Because there is no emotion involved.
Under fairly normal circumstances requiring a background investigation, emotion between people is involved. Such investigations are usually conducted by someone hiring a nanny or child care provider, or domestic help who may or may not have contact with children in the household, and that someone has probably already been interviewed by the parents or homemakers. Thus a bond has been established between the parties, which then brings emotions into play no matter how hard someone may try to avoid them.
Background investigations are also often conducted to confirm that a person met through an Internet dating site is in fact the person he or she conveyed to a prospective date. Again, a relationship has already been established on some level during the initial “chase.”
Take the emotion out of the process in order to achieve your goal, which is to be as sure as you possibly can be that the person representing him or her self to you is in fact that person, free of criminal charges or convictions, particularly of sex offenses.
There is no asset, material or otherwise, more important than our children, yet people often hire a nanny or caregiver without anything more than a telephone call to a past reference. Unfortunately, as has been borne out on more than on more than one occasion, that reference is no one other than a relative of the person wishing to be hired. We must never entrust our children to someone who will be responsible for their physical and mental selves without knowing the background of that person.
Schools are required by state law to license teachers, which means they do a background check on persons they hire. Bus drivers for school districts are required to pass background checks as well. Why would anyone then allow someone to come into their home without a background check being done on that person?
A background check that is routine in nature costs no more than $75. This entails a confirmation of the address provided by the prospective caregiver, confirming a telephone number, and doing a criminal background check both state and federal, as well as sex offender registries. These steps are critical. If someone does not have a green card, a valid visa, or the appropriate documentation as a citizen of the United States, they should not be hired.
The background check should be even more extensive if the caregiver of children is going to be driving them anywhere in her vehicle or the family vehicle. I advised my clients that they must see proof of insurance, not from the caregiver, but directly from the insurance agent, in addition to proof of vehicle registration and an official driver’s license. That means a check of motor vehicle records for that state must be done to be sure of driver responsibility and accurate license records. If the party lived in another state, those records must be checked as well for at least ten years prior.
I discovered an interesting posting while preparing to write this article. A woman posted on the social web site Craiglist for someone to take care of her child on alternate weekends. This is how the post read:
“I am looking for a responsible and mature Babysitter to watch my daughter two weekends a month from Friday evening to Sunday morning. I live in [City] but I have a roommate so I would prefer if you could baby sit at your house as long as it is a clean, safe environment.
My daughter goes to pre-school in [City] and I am willing to pay for gas and time traveled if you are willing to pick up my daughter after school on Friday around 5:30 p.m. This would allow me to drive straight from work to [City], where I am working on a ‘personal project’ on the weekends.
I am looking for someone for this Friday Dec. 8th through Sunday morning. I pay $8.00 per hour for the hours she is awake and then a $50 flat rate for the time she is asleep. She is an extremely easy child to care for and a lot of fun if you have young children as well.”
The purpose of this is to not pass judgment on this young mother, but to point out what is critical to my investigator’s eye in this posting. There is no question but that she covered all bases as to the hours she needs someone, that the person she hires must take care of the child at her own residence rather than the child’s, that the pay is fixed for the services, and she wants her child to be in a clean and safe environment. She points out that her child is “easy to care for.”
What is missing in my mind is the clarity about what is necessary, such as: “You will be required to provide references that can prove your ability as a care provider, that you can pass a background investigation including sex offender registries, and that there will be no person in your home at the time my child is there who will not pass a background investigation as well, which will include sex offender registries.” Is there a husband or boyfriend in the home? Are there teen age children in the home?
There must be no emotions, no prior bonding, total clarity of expectations, necessities, without hesitation. So the same must hold true for anyone else in a situation where a party will be coming into your home to clean, cook, care for your children or elderly, who are not bonded through a company they work for.
Internet dating situations are out of control and people are not doing what they should to take care of themselves, and I’m not talking about “safe sex.” I am talking about “safe dating,” the reality of checking out the person you may wind up in bed with, if not on the first date, perhaps on the second.
Investigators call it a “quick and dirty” check – confirm the name, address, phone number other than cell phone, and any criminal record, state or federal. If you wish to dig a bit further for not much more money, you can confirm if the person has filed bankruptcy or has court actions, either state or federal (plaintiff or defendant), and determine tax liens, if any. Credit information can provide more detail but will cost more.
Don’t let emotions control doing the right thing to protect yourself or your children. Do a background check.
Many employers now do background checks that did not do so prior to 2001. Law firms have historically been the worst at doing background checks for non-lawyers, yet have a very high rate of embezzlement, which is usually covered up within the firm. Dirty laundry doesn’t bode well for prospective clients.
The industry where the most turnovers occur, and usually the most employee theft, is the hospitality industry – restaurants, hotels, bars, catering. For the most part, they do not want to spend the money because there is so much turnover, so they consider such losses a part of doing business. What gets lost in translation is that we as customers pay for their cavalier attitude in the higher price of our meals.
Anyone obtaining a gaming license in any state is put through a very strong background investigation, which includes checking spouses, relatives, ex-spouses, relatives of spouses or ex-spouses, former addresses going back ten years, motor vehicle records, credit reports, in addition to FBI, NCIC, and local and state agency records. This is one step short of top security clearance.
Most of us will never come close to that type of scrutiny or the need for same. But the ability to control those we invite into our lives, whether it is for something to do with our children, our homes, our relatives, our real or personal property, is just that, within our control. Background checks should be automatic in some situations.
They are not something to feel guilty about or apologize for, they are a safety net for us to retain the power over our lives that we have worked for and paid good money to achieve and attain. Do not give away that power for less than $100.