6800. Background Checks

Approval: Ross Hunter, Secretary

Original Date:  February, 1998

Revised Date:  October 1, 2018

Policy Review: October 31, 2023


Purpose

This policy outlines the requirements Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) caseworkers, contract managers, and licensing staff must follow when completing background checks. This includes gathering and assessing an individual’s background information and other information contained in DCYF’s electronic systems (for example, FamLink, Management Operation Document Imaging System (MODIS), etc.) and hard files prior to contracting with or 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.

DCYF background check specialist is the centralized NCIC or non-emergent child welfare background check staff processing the background check.

Requestor is the DCYF caseworker, contracts manager, or Licensing Division (LD) licensor submitting the background check.

In-state background check is a name-based background check that includes a review of the following:

  • Founded findings of child abuse or neglect (CA/N) made by DCYF.
  • Current and previous self-disclosures.
  • Conviction information from the Washington State Patrol (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 DCYF, Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
  • 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. DCYF may use a previously completed fingerprint-based background check through DCYF or DSHS that was completed within the last three years where the individual has not lived outside of Washington state since the last fingerprint-based background check was completed. This background check includes a review of the following:

  • Founded findings of CA/N made by DCYF or DSHS.
  • Current and previous self-disclosures.
  • Conviction information from the WSP, AOC, DOC and FBI results received by the department.
  • Negative actions issued by DCYF, DOH, and DSHS.
  • 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 DCYF 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 DCYF caseworkers, contract managers, and licensing staff.

Laws

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

Public Law 115-123 Family First Prevention Act 2018

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

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. DCYF staff will discuss with individuals how to complete background checks. This includes the online application process or providing each individual with the required forms to complete a background check.
  2. DCYF background check specialists will process all background checks, document the results in FamLink, and notify the requestor of the outcome of the background check.
  3. DCYF administrative review unit will complete the administrative reviews as part of the background check process when DCYF is contracting with or licensing an organization or individual, hiring a new employee at a group care facility, or placing a child with an individual.
  4. DCYF must complete a background check as specified in the Guide to Background Checks on all group care facility staff, including those not working directly with children, prior to authorizing employment.
  5. Any individual who will have unsupervised access to a child in the care and custody of the department must pass the background check before DCYF 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.
  6. DCYF must not authorize unsupervised access to a child, including issuing a license, approving a placement, or authorizing an employee to work in a group care facility or under a contract with DCYF, 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 the date of conviction; or
    3. History that includes a crime or negative action that directly relates to child safety, permanence or well-being.
  7. Prior to DCYF authorizing an individual who has a criminal conviction or a negative action not listed in policy section 6 ( for example, through a license, placement, group care facility employment, or contract) to have unsupervised access to a child, 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 DSHS Secretary's List of Crimes and Negative Actions for use by Children's Administration.
  8. DCYF will complete background checks on parents to assess for services and not for the purpose of authorizing unsupervised access to their child. The requirement to conduct a character, competence, and suitability assessment does not apply to parents.
  9. DCYF must complete background checks on individuals utilizing the Guide to Background Checks.

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 requestor needs a background check for purposes specified in the Guide to Background Checks, the following procedures must be completed:
      1. Instruct the applicant to complete the background check application online at https://fortress.wa.gov/dshs/bcs/.
      2. Obtain the identification code from the applicant if they completed the application online.
      3. If the applicant is unable to complete the background check online, obtain a completed Background Check Authorization form and review for completeness and legibility.
      4. Complete a Background Check Request/Summary form for each individual and choose one background check purpose. This includes documenting the applicant’s online identification code, when applicable.
      5. Email the completed forms to the background check unit at cabc@dcyf.wa.gov.
    2. When the requestor receives notification from the DCYF background check specialist that a background check has been processed for purposes specified in the Guide to Background Checks, prior to authorizing unsupervised access the requestor must:
      1. Review the Background Check Request/Summary form.
      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.
        2. Review the individual’s information in FamLink and other DCYF electronic and hard file records. When completing a home study, licensors must also review records of other household members’, including those living on the premises, information in FamLink and other DCYF electronic and hard file records if the purpose of the background check is for adoption, licensure, or unlicensed placement.
        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 to 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 them 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 their siblings.
          9. Information in FamLink and other DCYF 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 cannot be approved for the purposes of a background check by DCYF.
      4. If the individual did not pass the background check and the child is placed out-of-home under a shelter care order or in a dependency case:
        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 requestor needs a background check before returning a dependent child to a parent the following procedures apply:
      1. Identify all adults who reside in the home, including those living on the premises.
      2. Instruct the applicant to complete the background check application online at https://fortress.wa.gov/dshs/bcs/.
      3. Obtain the identification code from the applicant if they completed the application online.
      4. If the applicant is unable to complete the background check online, obtain a completed Background Check Authorization form and review for completeness and legibility.
      5. Complete a Background Check Request/Summary form for each adult individual and choose one background check purpose. This includes documenting the applicant’s online identification code, when applicable.
      6. Email the completed forms to the background check unit at cabc@dcyf.wa.gov
    2. When the requestor receives notification from the DCYF background check specialist that a background check has been processed, the requestor must:
      1. Review the completed Background Check Request/Summary form.
      2. Request a copy of the background information from each adult , including the parent, if there is criminal or negative action history.
      3. Review the background information
      4. Review each adult individual’s, including parent’s, information in FamLink and other DCYF electronic and hard files and determine if this individual will be a caregiver, 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 in 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 requestor needs a background check for CPS investigation or when responding to allegations of CA/N, the:
      1. Requestor may call DCYF NCIC background check unit prior to going to the home and must provide the DCYF background check specialist with the names and dates of birth of the alleged subjects or other adults related to the investigation.
      2. Requestor may call DCYF NCIC background check unit prior to completing a safety assessment and provide additional names and dates of births of alleged subjects or other adults related to the investigation not previously requested.
      3. DCYF background check specialist will process the NCIC Purpose Code C request through the NCIC database and provide the background information to the requestor.
      4. Requestor must not document the background information in FamLink or share the background information with any individuals outside of the department.
    2. When the requestor receives notification from the DCYF background check specialist that a background check has been processed, the requestor will review the information to develop strategies for responding safely to the allegation.
  4. Background Checks for Emergent Unlicensed Placement (known as NCIC Purpose Code X)
    1. When a requestor needs a background check for an emergent unlicensed placement, the:
      1. Requestor must call DCYF NCIC background check unit prior to placing a child in the home of an unlicensed caregiver and must provide the DCYF background check specialist the names and dates of births of all adults living in the home where a child may be placed.
      2. DCYF background check specialists will process the NCIC Purpose Code X request for adults through the NCIC database. Within one hour from the time of the request, the DCYF 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.
      3. Requestor must have each individual, age 16 and older, residing in an approved emergent unlicensed placement complete the background check application online and obtain the identification code or obtain a completed Background Check Authorization form and review for completeness and legibility. This also applies to individuals younger than age 16 as required in the Guide to Background Checks.
      4. Requestor must complete a Background Check Request/Summary form for each individual and choose “emergent placement” as the background check purpose.
      5. Requestor must email the completed forms to the background check unit at cabc@dcyf.wa.gov within five calendar days from the date the placement was made.
      6. DCYF 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 completed Background Check Request/Summary form to the requestor.
    2. When the requestor receives notification from the DCYF background check specialist indicating the background check has been processed, the requestor must:
      1. Review the Background Check Request/Summary form.
      2. If the individual passed the background check:
        1. Review the individual’s information in FamLink and other DCYF 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 of the child to whom the person is requesting unsupervised access.
          2. The relationship, if any, of the person requesting unsupervised access to 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 them 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 their siblings.
          9. An individual’s information in FamLink and other DCYF 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 DCYF 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 15 calendar days from which the NCIC background check was conducted, the 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 who did not complete or pass a background check unsupervised access to a child, the 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 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. If a NCIC Purpose Code C has been completed, that information cannot be shared with the court or the individual.
      2. 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

Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DSHS 10-453

Resources

Background Check Processes and Requirements (available on CA intranet)

NCIC (Emergent) Process (available on CA intranet)