Background Checks

Criminal background checksA criminal background check is an important element of an organization’s Safety System, but it is no ‘silver bullet’. Many organizations perform stand-alone criminal background checks and little else. They assume that the risk of sexual abuse has been identified and removed, and therefore no further screening occurs. This practice is extremely dangerous and leads to failure. Why?


  • More than 90% of sexual abusers have no criminal record to find, and they know it.
  • Teen abusers have no searchable criminal records because juvenile records are generally unavailable.
  • Sexual abuse offenders are often allowed to “plea down” to a lesser offense, such that a background check may reveal lesser offenses that may not alert untrained personnel to the dangerous nature of an applicant’s past behavior.

Making a reasonable effort to access past criminal records of any applicant who applies to work with children has become a legal standard of care. Checking past records of criminal behavior is an important element of any effective screening process, even though less than 10% of abusers will have criminal records to check.

Background Checks and the Skillful Screening Process are valuable tools in your effort to recognize the predator before he or she has access to children in your program.

Criminal Background Checks Overview

Criminal Background Checks vimeo play

Background checks should be customized by position

There is no ‘one size fits all’ criminal background check; background checks should be tailored to the position filled by a potential employee or volunteer. An applicant who will be working with children or students in a less structured and less easily supervised context requires a more in-depth screen, while an applicant working in a highly supervised, more structured and time-limited context requires a less in-depth screen. As well, there are some individuals filling positions of trust in your program about whom you cannot afford to be wrong. These applicants require a more in-depth screen.

Background checks must be re-run periodically

“Once a volunteer, always a volunteer” is not a safe supposition when it comes to children’s programs. All volunteers and employees must be periodically re-screened.

Abuse Prevention Systems recommends renewing each criminal background check every two to three years.

Available background check elements include:

Effective background checks allow organizations to keep convicted sexual offenders out of children’s programs and provide an additional level of protection when utilized as part of the Abuse Prevention Systems 5-Part Safety System.

Industry-Specific Resources

Ready for the next step in the 5-Part Safety System? Monitoring and Oversight