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Would you let a sex-offender care for your mom?

Would you let someone convicted of a felony sex-offense come to your home to care for your disabled child? How about your elderly parents? Of course not! So why are people hiring home health aides without criminal background checks?

According to findings from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, 10 states (Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming) do not have a mandate for home health agencies to vet their workers against criminal databases before allowing them to work in people’s homes. Of the 10 states with no background-check laws, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, and West Virginia are developing plans to require them.

Currently, there is no federal law that requires background checks or bars workers with criminal records or a history of abuse from working in the home health industry. Since there is no federal law in place, what results is a patchwork of protections in the remaining 40 states and the District of Columbia. Thankfully, in New York the law requires statewide and federal background checks for prospective employees at any residential facilities licensed under New York’s Public Health Law, any certified home health care agencies, licensed care services agency, or long-term home health care program. But throughout the country state laws vary widely. For instance California and Texas require only statewide background checks, which fail to pick up convictions from other jurisdictions. New York, Florida, and Illinois mandate FBI fingerprint background checks. These background checks include federal crimes and out-of-state offenses. These background checks help protect your loved one from sexual, physical, emotional, and even financial abuse.

Although these protections are undeniably important and protect our most vulnerable populations from unthinkable abuse, they are useless if you don’t go through the proper channels to hire a home health aide. Not only can hiring someone “off the books” create tax and Medicaid issues, by hiring a home health aide who has not been subject to a criminal background check you could be putting your loved one at serious risk. Hiring someone “off the books” may save some money, but it could cost you dearly.

By Eric J. Einhart – Guest Blogger

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