In-Home Care Workers’ Background Checks

How can this be?  Home health agencies aren’t required to do background checks on people who provide in-home care services for people with disabilities?

According to a report recently released by the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, that is the reality in 10 states–Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.  These states lack any requirements for home health agencies to vet their workers against criminal databases or abuse and neglect databases before sending them out on the job. Four of those ten states–Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii and West Virginia–say they are planning on implementing background checks.

With no federal laws in place establishing minimum safeguards, I guess it could be considered good news that 40 states and the District of Columbia have instituted their own requirements, but they vary widely from state to state, and in 15 of those states employment can begin prior to the background checks being completed.

Regulations in 35 states bar individuals with specific convictions from becoming home health workers, but they differ on which offenses disqualify a person.  Some states require background checks on both the federal and state levels, while other states only check for state-level convictions.

Some states require checks only on certain people, depending on the job duties or the length of residence in the state.  For instance, a state might require background checks only on a person who enters the beneficiary’s home or who provides direct care.  As for length of residence, if the person has resided in the state for more than 5 years, they may do only a state background check, but if the person has lived there only 18 months, they may do an FBI check as well as state.

Here in California, background checks are required only for certain people and the check is done only on the state level.

The Office of the Inspector General is currently working on a second study  that will cover how many people with criminal convictions have been hired by home health agencies as of January 1, 2014, and how many of those have convictions that potentially disqualify them for those jobs.  It will also look at the procedures used to perform background checks on prospective employees. Results will be released later this year.

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