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Background Checks

When it comes to hiring caregivers, it's important to trust your own line of questioning  -- and not just a check conducted by an outside source.

A Kansas mom learned this the hard way: She hired a part-time sitter through a local childcare agency that had supposedly done a background check. When the sitter admitted that due to her history it was hard for her to get jobs, the mom started asking questions and the woman finally revealed she had spent fifteen years on the lam for child abduction. "Apparently all of this thorough investigation had failed to turn up that little fact," she says.

While Pamela Rowse, president of the Kierra Harrison Foundation for Child Safety, recommends that parents choose a licensed childcare provider over an unlicensed one, the quality and thoroughness of background checks varies widely from state to state. Some don't require them at all, while others will only check their own state's records. (You can check your state's requirements by visiting the [XREF {http://nrc.uchsc.edu/} {National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education} {_blank}].

Plus, records can be difficult to locate if a childcare provider has changed her name. And in some cases, records won't include complaints  -- even if they were pursued by local authorities  -- that didn't turn into criminal charges.

Fortunately, most candidates aren't hiding something. But in order to make an informed decision, know that while a background check may turn up useful information, it isn't necessarily complete.

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