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Caregiver Background Checks: A Complete Guide [2023]


Home healthcare employers that are looking to hire caregivers should conduct extensive background checks on each applicant.

Did you know that an estimated five million elderly adults suffer some type of abuse each year in the U.S.?

Caregiver background checks help to identify qualified, responsible applicants while minimizing the liability risks for your organization.

Based on our experience conducting caregiver background checks for organizations across the U.S., we wrote this guide for employers.

Let’s dive in.

What is a Caregiver Background Check?

A caregiver background check is a type of employment background check conducted by licensed community care providers on prospective employees, contractors, and volunteers who will perform direct care duties with vulnerable clients.

Like healthcare background checks, caregiver screens are typically much more extensive than other routine employment background checks because of the vulnerability of the people for whom services are provided.

Some of the types of caregiver positions for which caregiver background checks might be needed include the following:

  • Caregivers providing care to the elderly
  • Caregivers providing personal or private care in home settings
  • Caregivers providing services in assisted living facilities
  • Home care aides
  • Providers of specialized home care, including to patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, developmental disabilities, and others
  • Palliative care providers/end-of-life care providers

Caregiver Background Check Laws

Employers must comply with both federal and state laws when conducting caregiver background checks.

Federal Laws

While there is no federal law that specifically applies to caregiver background checks, there are two other laws that you must follow when conducting any type of pre-employment background check.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that protects consumers’ privacy in the information collected and disseminated by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs).

This law also places limitations on how employers can use information revealed on employment background checks.

Before you can conduct employment background checks, you must first disclose your intent to do so in writing and obtain the written consent of your applicants and employees.

If a background check report reveals problematic information, you must complete the adverse action process before making a final adverse hiring decision.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on the protected characteristics of employees and applicants and is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Title VII governs how employers should treat criminal records revealed on background checks.

If an applicant has a criminal record, you must individually assess the conviction as it relates to the position for which the applicant has applied before deciding against hiring him or her based on that information.

State Laws

State laws governing caregiver background checks broadly vary. Some states require specialized background checks for caregivers.

Here are a few examples of state laws affecting caregiver background checks.

Wisconsin Caregiver Background Screens

Wisc. Code § 50.065 and Wisc. Admin. Code ch. 12 require entities that hire caregivers as employees or contractors that will work in direct client care or contact to conduct in-depth caregiver background checks.

All caregiver employers must conduct background checks through the Wisconsin Department of Justice WORCs system and specify that it is a caregiver background check.

Employers cannot hire applicants with disqualifying convictions on their records.

California Caregiver Background Checks

Under Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1520, licensed community care agencies must conduct fingerprint-based background checks on prospective applicants and submit evidence that they are satisfactory to the state.

The Department of Social Services may disqualify any applicant who has certain criminal convictions other than minor traffic infractions unless it grants an exemption.

The state has a list of non-exemptible offenses for which an applicant will be permanently disqualified from working as a caregiver.

Massachusetts Caregiver Background Checks

Massachusetts has a ban-the-box law found at M.G.L. ch.151-B §4 that prohibits employers from asking about criminal convictions or arrests on their applications.

However, there is an exception for employers that are statutorily required to inquire about one or more types of criminal offenses, including those that hire caregivers.

What Shows up on a Caregiver Background Check?

What might show up on a caregiver background check will depend on your state and the types of information you request and/or are required to request.

Most home health agencies and other caregiving organizations ask for the following types of information:

  • Criminal convictions
  • Pending criminal cases
  • Listing on the abuse and neglect registry
  • Sex offender registry information
  • Domestic Terrorist Watch List information
  • Education verification
  • Employment verification

Here are examples of information you might see on a few of these background checks.

Criminal Background Checks

Criminal background checks for employment are very important for caregiving agencies to ensure an applicant does not have any disqualifying convictions.

If an applicant has a conviction, you might see the following types of information about the offense:

  • Offense type
  • Date of offense
  • Offense level (misdemeanor or felony)
  • Disposition
  • Date of disposition
  • Sentence

Employment Verification

If you request an employment verification check, you will see the following information about each position an applicant has held:

  • Name and location of each employer
  • Employment dates
  • Positions/job titles held

Education Verification

An education verification check allows you to confirm the information reported by an applicant on a resume or application.

On this type of report, you will see the following types of information:

  • Name and location of each school attended
  • Dates of attendance
  • Any diplomas or degrees conferred

How to Do a Background Check on a Caregiver

Caregiving agencies can send requests to their state agencies for background checks on prospective caregivers.

For example, California licensed care agencies can submit requests through the Care Provider Management Bureau with the California Department of Social Services.

However, checking with the state might not reveal other critical information about an applicant’s convictions outside the state in other jurisdictions or about his or her employment and educational history.

Some employers attempt a do-it-yourself approach to conducting caregiver background checks.

There are several reasons why this is not a good idea.

You might not find all of the relevant information you need, and your search might not comply with the regulatory requirements in your state for caregiver checks.

Using a professional background check company like iprospectcheck is the best approach and can help you comply with all applicable regulations while simplifying the process.

How to Stay Compliant During the Caregiver Background Check Process

To comply with relevant employment laws, make sure to take the following steps:

1. Choose an Accredited Consumer Reporting Agency

Choose a consumer reporting agency (CRA) like iprospectcheck with accreditation through the Professional Background Screeners Association.

2. Notify the Applicant

Notify the applicant of your intent to conduct a caregiver background check, and obtain his or her signed authorization.

3. Gather Crucial Information

Collect the candidate’s information, including his or her Social Security number, full name, date of birth, and address.

Also, collect information about the applicant’s professional licenses or degrees if they are required by the position.

4. Request the Right Types of Background Checks

Make sure to request all of the types of background checks that your state requires and of any accrediting bodies with which you must comply.

5. Carefully Review Background Check Reports

When you receive the background check reports, review them carefully and check for offenses that might bar applicants from caregiving positions.

6. Complete the Adverse Action Process

If you decide against hiring the applicant, make sure to complete the adverse action process, and give him or her a copy of the rights under the FCRA and relevant state laws.

What Disqualifies You From Being a Caregiver?

Several factors can disqualify an applicant from being a caregiver.

Here are some of the most common reasons.

1. Certain Criminal Convictions

While the requirements might vary from state to state, people with certain types of convictions cannot work as caregivers because of the potential risk to vulnerable people.

For example, California requires a criminal clearance for anyone applying to work as a caregiver and excludes individuals from consideration who have misdemeanor or felony convictions for which they have not received an exemption.

However, the state also includes 60 non-exemptible offenses, including sexual battery, rape, robbery, carjacking, elder or dependent abuse, and offenses requiring sex offender registration.

Other states might allow caregivers with certain misdemeanor convictions to be hired, but most prohibit hiring those who have a history of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or sex offenses from working as caregivers.

2. Poor Driving Record

Many caregivers are expected to drive as a part of their jobs to transport clients to medical appointments, the grocery store, and other places.

Because of this, applicants for caregiving positions frequently undergo motor vehicle records checks.

If an MVR check reveals that an applicant has multiple traffic violations or serious traffic offenses on his or her record, the prospective employer will likely deny employment.

This is because of potential liability and safety issues the applicant might pose.

3. Lies About Employment History

Some job applicants fudge their employment histories by altering their employment dates, leaving out past employers, claiming to have held positions with greater authority than they did, or working for companies for which they never worked.

Employers that request employment verification checks will be able to easily verify the claims applicants have made about their past employment.

Those who lie will likely be turned down for caregiving jobs because of their lack of trustworthiness.

4. Lies About Education or Credentials

Some people also lie about their educational attainment or credentials on their resumes and applications. They might do this to appear more qualified for a job than they are.

Employers that request education verification checks will see all of the schools an applicant has attended and whether they have the certificates or degrees they claim to hold.

Similarly, a professional license verification will reveal the status of a claimed license and its validity.

Lying about education or credentials will likely result in being disqualified from a job.

5. Failed Pre-Employment Drug Test

Many home health agencies request pre-employment drug tests as a condition of employment to protect the vulnerable populations they serve.

If an applicant returns a confirmed positive result on a pre-employment drug test, the employer will likely withdraw the conditional employment offer.

How Long Does a Caregiver Background Check Take?

How long it might take to complete a caregiver background check will vary based on the method you choose.

If you attempt to try a do-it-yourself background check by submitting requests to multiple state and federal agencies and performing searches online, it could take weeks before you receive all of the information you need to make a fully informed hiring decision.

Sending requests to agencies, former employers, and educational institutions might also not provide you with all of the background information you need, and some of the information you receive might be outdated or inaccurate.

The best approach is to partner with an experienced and reliable background check provider like iprospectcheck.

Because of our broad resources and advanced research skills, we can frequently complete background checks and provide reports to our clients in as little as a few hours.

What Is the Difference Between a Caregiver Background Check and a Regular One?

Because of the vulnerability of the clients home healthcare employers serve, caregiver background checks are typically much more extensive than other routine checks.

Caregivers often work inside private homes, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other places with vulnerable people in which they might not always be directly supervised.

Because of the need to protect client safety, caregiver background checks typically require additional types of background screens beyond what might be required for a routine background check.

Many caregiver background checks might include national criminal records checks, national sex offender registry checks, abuse and neglect registry checks, and others that might not be requested by employers in other industries.

iprospectcheck: Your Partner for Reliable, Trusted Caregiver Background Checks

If you are an employer that provides services to vulnerable people and hires caregivers, you are likely required to conduct caregiver background checks on every candidate.

Failing to conduct in-depth caregiver background checks could expose you to substantial fines and extensive liability.

At iprospectcheck, we have extensive resources and access to up-to-date, reliable databases to quickly return the types of information you need to make good hiring decisions.

We always comply with the FCRA and other relevant laws when we conduct background checks.

To learn more about our background check services, contact iprospectcheck today: 888-808-9997

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.