6800. Background Checks

Approval: Connie Lambert-Eckel, Acting Assistant Secretary

Original Date:  February, 1998

Revised Date:  October 19, 2017

Policy Review: October 1, 2021


Purpose

This policy outlines the requirements Children’s Administration (CA) staff must follow prior to authorizing an individual to have unsupervised access to children in the care and custody of the department. This includes gathering and assessing an individual’s background information and other information contained in CA’s electronic system (e.g. FamLink, Management Operation Document Imaging System (MODIS), etc.) and hard files prior to contracting with, licensing an organization or individual or placing a child with an individual. 

Definitions

Background information is the result of an in-state, national or National Crime Information Center (NCIC) background check.

CA background check specialist is the centralized NCIC or non-emergent background check staff processing the background check in CA.

CA requestor is the CA contracts manager, Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworker or Division of Licensed Resources (DLR) licensor submitting the background check.

In-state background check is a background check through the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and includes a review of the following:

  • Founded findings of child abuse or neglect (CA/N) made by CA.
  • Current and previous self-disclosures.
  • Conviction information from the WSP, Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), Department of Corrections (DOC) and prior Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) results received by the department.
  • Negative actions issued by CA, Department of Health (DOH) and the department’s Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA).
  • Sex offender registry.
  • Out-of-state CA/N history, when applicable.
  • Western Identification Network (WIN) conviction information.

National background check is a fingerprint-based background check through the FBI and the WSP, or a previously completed fingerprint-based background check through the department if the individual has not lived outside of Washington state since the last fingerprint-based background check was completed by the department. This background check includes a review of the following:

  • Founded findings of CA/N made by CA.
  • Current and previous self-disclosures.
  • Conviction information from the WSP, AOC, DOC and FBI results received by the department.
  • Negative actions issued by CA, DOH and the department’s ALTSA.
  • Sex offender registry.
  • Out-of-state CA/N history, when applicable.
  • WIN conviction information.

Unsupervised means the individual is not in the presence of the parent or another individual who has passed a background check and is currently approved by CA to have contact with a child. Incidental contact is not considered unsupervised access. “Incidental contact" means minor or casual contact with a child in an area accessible to and within visual or auditory range of others. It could include passing a child while walking down a hallway but would not include being alone with a child for any period of time in a closed room or office.

Scope

This policy applies to CA staff.

Laws

Public Law 105-89 Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997

RCW 74.15.030  Powers and duties of Secretary

RCW 74.13.700 Denial or delay of licensure or approval of unsupervised access to children

RCW 13.34.138 Returning a dependent child home (Sirita’s Law)

RCW 43.43.837 Fingerprint-based background checks

WAC 388-06A Background check requirements for Children’s Administration

RCW 26.44.240 Emergent placement background check

RCW 43.20A.710 Background checks for providers

RCW 74.13.710 Prudent parent standard

Policy

  1. CA staff will provide each individual needing a background check with all documents required to complete a background check.
  2. CA background check specialists will process all background checks, document the results in FamLink and notify the CA requestor with the outcome of the background check.
  3. When an administrative review is required for DCFS and DLR purposes, the CA administrative review unit will complete the administrative reviews as part of the background check process.
  4. Any individual who will have unsupervised access to a child in the care and custody of the department must pass the background check before CA approves unsupervised access to a child.
    1. If a court orders unsupervised access to a child, a background check is still required.
    2. The background check process is not required for any individual when an out-of-home caregiver is authorizing unsupervised access to a child for normal childhood activities less than 72 hours under the reasonable and prudent parenting standard.
  5. CA must not authorize unsupervised access to a child, including issuing a license, approving a placement or authorizing an employee to work under a contract with CA, if an individual’s background information has a:
    1. Permanent disqualifying crime;
    2. Five year disqualifying crime and it has been less than five years from date of conviction; or
    3. History that includes a crime or negative action that directly relates to child safety, permanence or well-being.
  6. Prior to CA authorizing an individual who has a criminal conviction or a negative action not listed in policy section 5 (e.g. through a license, placement or contract) to have unsupervised access to a child, CA staff must:
    1. Evaluate the individual's character, competence and suitability as it relates to that child's safety, permanence and well-being;
    2. Determine if placement is in the child's best interest, if placement is sought; and
    3. Determine if an administrative review is required by using the following:
      1. DSHS Secretary's List of Crimes and Negative Actions for use by Children's Administration
      2. Overview of Administrative Approval Process for Crimes and/or Negative Actions
  7. CA will complete background checks on parents to assess for services and not for the purpose of authorizing unsupervised access to their child. The character, competence and suitability assessment does not apply to parents.
  8. CA must complete background checks on individuals for the following purposes:
    1. Contracting
      CA must complete:
      1. An in-state background check for individuals or service providers, age 16 and older, who may have unsupervised access to a child. This includes:
        1. Issuing a new contract;
        2. Approving a new individual to work under a contract; or
        3. Renewing a contract.
      2. A national background check for individuals, age 18 and older, who have lived outside of Washington in the last three years.
    2. Licensure and Unlicensed Home Study
      1. CA must complete:
        1. An in-state background check for:
          1. Individuals, age 16 and older, excluding a foster child, who reside in a home that is in the process of licensure renewal;
          2. A new employee in a licensed agency; or
          3. Group care or licensed agency staff when the agency is in the process of renewing its license.
        2. A national background check for individuals:
          1. Age 16 and older who reside in a home that is or will be licensed; or
          2. Age 18 and older who is a new employee in a licensed group care facility; or
          3. Age 18 and older who have lived outside of Washington state in the last three years and is a new employee in a licensed agency or group care or licensed agency staff when the agency is in the process of renewing its license.
        3. Request CA/N history from each state an adult, age 18 and older, has lived in the last five years prior to initial licensure or when an adult moves into a licensed home.
      2. CA may require an in-state background check for individuals who are younger than age 16 to verify the safety of a child placed in that home, upon supervisor approval. A national background check must also be requested for these individuals if the individual has lived outside of Washington state in the last three years.
      3. The DLR licensor or home study writer must review CA electronic data system and hard files information for each member of the household regardless of age.
    3. Non-Emergent Placement
      Prior to making a non-emergent placement, CA must:
      1. Complete a national background check for individuals, age 16 and older, living in a home where a child may be placed. This applies to placements made for adoption, Child In Need of Services (CHINS) cases if CA is ordered to place the child, when a foster child is placed in respite care, when CA takes custody under a Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA), when CA approves an unlicensed placement or reinstating parental rights.
      2. CA may require an in-state background check for individuals who are younger than age 16 to verify the safety of a child placed in that home, upon supervisor approval. A national background check must also be requested for these individuals if the individual has lived outside of Washington state in the last three years.
      3. Request CA/N history from each state an adult, age 18 and older, has lived in the last five years.
      4. Verify the unlicensed caregiver has an approved home study or approval from an area administrator pending the outcome of the home study, per 45274 Placements with Unlicensed Relatives or Suitable Persons.
    4. Unsupervised access to a child that is not covered in policy section a. through c.
      CA must complete:
      1. An in-state background check for individuals or service providers, age 16 and older, who may have unsupervised access to a child.
        1. This includes individuals who babysit, are identified as a safety-plan participant, supervise a visitation or volunteer to assist with case services.
        2. This excludes individuals approved by the out-of-home caregiver for normal childhood activities under the reasonable and prudent parenting standard.
      2. A national background check must be completed for individuals, age 18 and older, who have lived outside of Washington in the last three years.
    5. Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)
      CA is responsible for completing the background check for children in the custody of another state who may be placed in Washington state when a home study is being completed.
      1. When a relative, foster parent or adoption home study is being completed, CA staff must also follow policy section 8.b.
      2. If the ICPC request is for placement with a parent in Washington state, CA must:
        1. Complete a national background check for individuals, age 18 and older, including parents; and
        2. Request CA/N history from each state every adult age, 18 and older, including parents, has lived in the last five years.
      3. If the request is part of the ICPC Border Agreement:
        1. CA must:
          1. Complete an in-state background check for individuals, age 16 and older, living in the home prior to placing a child in the home.
          2. Request CA/N history from each state every adult, age 18 and older, have lived in the last five years.
        2. Every individual, age 16 and older, must complete a national background check following the placement.
        3. CA may require an in-state background check for individuals who are younger than age 16 to verify the safety of a child placed in that home, upon supervisor approval. A national background check must also be requested for these individuals if the individual has lived outside of Washington state in the last three years.
        4. Caregivers of a child dependent in Washington state who will be placed outside of Washington state under the ICPC will have their background check completed by the receiving state according to the receiving state’s policy.
    6. Prior to returning a dependent child home
      1. CA must identify and complete background checks for each adult, age 18 and older, including parents, living in the home where a dependent child will be placed. For every adult, age 18 and older, CA must:
        1. Complete a national background check; and
        2. Request CA/N history from each state the adult has lived in the last five years.
        3. Recommend to the court that placement of the child in the parent's home be delayed based on the need to complete the background check on other adults, age 18 and older, or additional services are needed to ensure the safety of the child prior to placement.
      2. CA must identify any persons who may act as a caregiver for the child, in addition to the parents, with whom the child is being placed and:
        1. Review the results of the background check to determine whether any caregivers are in need of any services to increase child safety prior to the child returning home.
        2. Recommend to the court the need for such persons to engage in or complete services to increase child safety prior to the child returning home.
    7. CPS Investigations (known as NCIC Purpose Code C)
      1. CA is authorized to access NCIC background information when investigating or responding to reports of CA/N.
      2. NCIC Purpose Code C background checks may only be conducted on alleged subjects and other adults related to the investigation to assess child and caseworker safety:
        1. Prior to the CA requestor’s initial visit to the home.
        2. When any new adult related to the investigation is identified and has not been previously assessed prior to completing a safety assessment.
      3. NCIC Purpose Code C background checks are requested at the discretion of the investigating caseworker and are not required.
    8. Emergent Unlicensed Placement (known as NCIC Purpose Code X)
      1. CA must:
        1. Complete a NCIC Purpose Code X background check of every adult, age 18 and older, prior to placing a child with a relative or other suitable person when a child requires immediate placement due to the sudden unavailability of the child’s current primary caregiver (e.g. parents, legal guardians, or licensed or unlicensed caregivers).
        2. Complete a national background check for individuals, age 16 and older, living in a home where an emergent placement is made following the placement.
        3. Request CA/N history from each state an adult, age 18 and older, has lived in the last five years when an emergent placement is made.
        4. Assess the safety of the home and property prior to placement using the Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates form.
        5. Notify the court and recommend removal of the child if:
          1. Any individual, age 18 and older, living in the home fails to submit fingerprints to the WSP within 15 calendar days from the date of the NCIC Purpose Code X background check and the emergent placement is made; or
          2. Any individual’s background check reveals a crime or negative action relating directly to child safety, permanence or well-being.
      2. CA may:
        1. CA may require an in-state background check for individuals who are younger than age 16 to verify the safety of a child placed in that home, upon supervisor approval. A national background check must be requested for these individuals that have lived outside of Washington state in the last three years.
        2. Request a NCIC Purpose Code X background check with a relative or other suitable person within seven calendar days of the child’s date of removal from the current primary caretaker if the placement was initially made with a licensed provider.

Procedures

  1. Background Checks for Purposes of Contracting, Licensing, Non-Emergent Placement, Other Unsupervised Access or ICPC with a non-parent and Reinstatement of Parental Rights
    1. When a CA requestor needs a background check for purposes in policy section a. through e. the following procedures apply:
      1. Obtain a completed Background Authorization form and review for completeness and legibility.
      2. Complete a Background Check Request Cover Sheet for each individual and choose one background check purpose.
      3. Email the completed forms to the background check unit at cabc@dshs.wa.gov.
    2. When the CA requestor receives notification from the CA background check specialist that a background check has been processed for purposes in policy section a. through e., prior to authorizing unsupervised access the requestor must:
      1. Review the Background Check Summary.
      2. If the individual passed the background check,
        1. Request a copy of the background information from the individual if there is criminal or negative action history; and
        2. Review an individual’s information in FamLink and other CA electronic and hard file records. DLR licensors must also review other household members’ information in FamLink and other CA electronic and hard file records if the purpose of the background check is for adoption, licensure or unlicensed placement when completing a home study.
        3. Consider the following factors to determine if it is in the child’s best interest for the individual to have unsupervised access to the child:
          1. Vulnerability of the child to whom the person is requesting unsupervised access.
          2. The relationship, if any, of the person requesting unsupervised access with the child.
          3. In order to aid reunification, consider the proximity of the person who is requesting unsupervised access to the child’s family, school and community.
          4. The person’s ability to meet the physical, emotional and mental health needs of the child.
          5. The person’s ability to meet the racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious needs of the child.
          6. The specific experiences and training the person has that prepares him or her to provide for or support any special needs of the child.
          7. The degree to which the person is willing to initiate and participate in treatment of the child.
          8. In order to maintain sibling connections, consider the person’s ability to provide care to this child and siblings.
          9. Information in FamLink and other CA electronic and hard file records, if any.
        4. Authorize unsupervised access if the review determines information does not relate directly to child safety, permanence, or well-being.
      3. If the individual did not pass the background check they are not authorized unsupervised access by CA.
      4. If the individual did not pass the background check and the child is placed out-of-home under shelter care order or dependency petition, CA staff must:
        1. Notify the court as early as possible that the individual did not pass a background check and recommend the removal of the child. This includes contacting the assigned assistant attorney general to determine when the information can be presented to the court.
        2. Document the recommendation for removal in a FamLink case note.
        3. Inform the court to request the background information directly from the individual if that information is needed.
  2. Background Checks for Purposes of Returning Dependent Child Home and ICPC with a Parent
    1. When a CA requestor needs a background check before returning a dependent child to a parent the following procedures apply:
      1. Identify who resides in the home.
      2. Complete a Background Check Request Cover Sheet for each individual and choose one background check purpose.
      3. Obtain a completed Background Authorization form and review for completion and legibility.
      4. Email the completed forms to the background check unit at cabc@dshs.wa.gov.
    2. When the CA requestor receives notification from the CA background check specialist that a background check has been processed, the requestor must:
      1. Review the Background Check Summary.
      2. Request a copy of the background information from each individual, including the parent if there is criminal or negative action history; and
      3. Review the background information; and
      4. Review each individual’s, including parent’s, information in FamLink and other CA electronic and hard files; and determine if this individual will be a caregiver, and if so, determine if services are needed to increase child safety prior to the child returning home.
      5. Recommend to the court:
        1. The need for the individual to engage or complete services prior to the child returning home; or
        2. The individual is authorized unsupervised access if the review determines information does not relate directly to child safety, permanence, or well-being.
  3. Background Checks for CPS Investigations (known as NCIC Purpose Code C)
    1. When a CA requestor needs a background check for CPS investigation or when responding to allegations of CA/N, the:
      1. CA requestor may call CA NCIC background check unit prior to going to the home and must provide the CA background check specialist with the names and dates of birth of the alleged subjects or other adults related to the investigation.
      2. Prior to completing a safety assessment, CA requestor may call CA NCIC background check unit and provide additional names and dates of births of alleged subjects or other adults related to the investigation not previously requested.
      3. CA background check specialist will process the NCIC Purpose Code C request through the NCIC database and provide the background information to the CA requestor.
      4. CA requestor must not document the background information in FamLink or share the background information with any individuals outside of the department.
    2. When the CA requestor receives notification from the CA background check specialist that a background check has been processed, the CA requestor will review the information to develop strategies for responding to the allegation safely.
  4. Background Checks for Emergent Unlicensed Placement (known as NCIC Purpose Code X)
    1. When a CA requestor needs a background check for an emergent unlicensed placement, the:
      1. CA requestor must call CA NCIC background check unit prior to placing a child in the home of an unlicensed caregiver and must provide the CA background check specialist the names and dates of births of all adults, age 18 and older, living in the home where a child may be placed.
      2. CA requestor must email the completed forms to the background check unit at cabc@dshs.wa.gov within five calendar days from the date the placement was made.
      3. CA requestor must complete a Background Check Request Cover Sheet for each individual and choose “emergent placement” as the background check purpose.
      4. CA requestor must have each individual, age 16 and older, residing in an approved emergent unlicensed placement complete the Background Authorization form and review for completion and legibility. This also applies to individuals younger than age 16 when applicable.
      5. CA requestor may request an in-state background check for individuals who are younger than age 16 in situations where it is warranted to ensure the safety of a child placed out-of-home. A national background check must be requested for these individuals that have lived outside of Washington state in the last three years.
      6. CA background check specialist will process the NCIC Purpose Code X request for adults, age 18 and older, through the NCIC database. Within one hour from the time of the request, the background specialist will approve or deny the emergent placement following a character, competence and suitability assessment of the background information received from the NCIC database.
      7. CA background check specialist conducts a character, competence and suitability assessment of the background information received from the in-state and national background check results and sends the Background Check Summary to the CA requestor.
    2. When the CA requestor receives notification from the CA background check specialist indicating the background check has been processed, the CA requestor must:
      1. Review the Background Check Summary.
      2. If the individual passed the background check:
        1. Review the individual’s information in FamLink and other CA electronic and hard files;
        2. Request a copy of the background information from the individual if there is criminal or negative action history; and
        3. Consider the following factors to determine if the emergent unlicensed placement is in the child’s best interest:
          1. Vulnerability the child to whom the person is requesting unsupervised access.
          2. The relationship, if any, of the person requesting unsupervised access with the child.
          3. In order to aid reunification, consider the proximity of the person who is requesting unsupervised access to the child’s family, school and community.
          4. The person’s ability to meet the physical, emotional and mental health needs of the child.
          5. The person’s ability to meet the racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious needs of the child.
          6. The specific experiences and training the person has that prepares him or her to provide for or support any special needs of the child.
          7. The degree to which the person is willing to initiate and participate in treatment of the child.
          8. In order to maintain sibling connections, consider the person’s ability to provide care to this child and siblings.
          9. An individual’s information in FamLink and other CA electronic and hard file records, if any.
      3. Determine if the placement is in the child’s best interest. If the placement is not in the child’s best interest, the CA requestor must:
        1. Notify the court as early as possible that the individual did not pass a background check and recommend the removal of the child. This includes contacting the assigned assistant attorney general to determine when the information can be presented to the court.
        2. Document the recommendation for removal in a FamLink case note.
      4. If the individual did not pass the background check or did not submit the fingerprint to the WSP within fifteen calendar days from which the NCIC background check was conducted, the CA requestor must:
        1. Notify the court as early as possible that the individual did not pass a background check and recommend the removal of the child. This includes contacting the assigned assistant attorney general to determine when the information can be presented to the court.
        2. Inform the court it may request the background information directly from the individual if that information is needed.
        3. Document the recommendation for removal in a FamLink case note.
  5. Court-Ordered Placements or Court Ordered Return Home Prior to Dependency
    1. If a judge orders an individual unsupervised access to a child who did not complete or pass a background check, the CA caseworker must:
      1. Follow the steps outlined in Procedures section 1.
      2. Notify the court as early as possible that the individual did not complete or pass a background check. This includes:
        1. Contacting the assigned assistant attorney general to determine when the information can be presented to the court.
        2. Inform the court it may request the background information directly from the individual if that information is needed.
        3. Document the recommendation and results of the court hearing in a FamLink case note.
    2. If a judge is considering returning a child home to a parent where court proceedings have begun but the dependency has not been established, the CA caseworker must:
      1. Notify the court that the department does not have the authority to complete a background check on the individual for the purpose of returning a child home.
      2. If a NCIC Purpose Code C has been completed, that information cannot be shared with the court or the individual.
      3. Document the results of the court hearing in a case note.

Forms

Background Check Authorization DSHS 09-653

Background Check Request Cover Sheet DSHS 27-131

Background Check Summary DSHS 27-132

Resources

Background Check Processes and Requirements (available on CA intranet)

NCIC (Emergent) Process (available on CA intranet)