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There are several instances in which a minor may be the subject of a background check. Often, summer volunteer programs that involve young children will require a background check and sex offender registry search regardless of the volunteer’s age. For employment and internships, employers are required to have a consistent background screening policy. If adults are required to submit to a background check, then so must anyone under the age of 18.
Since background checks on minors are much less common than adults, employers and nonprofit organizations are often unaware of any special requirements associated with running background checks on them. More commonly, organizations are unaware of what exactly goes into a background check for a minor.
When conducting background checks on people under the age of 18, there are differences.Many of these differences are highly dependent on the particular location of the individual and the types of background checks that are being run on them.
The most common difference that you will encounter when running background checks on minors is that they will very often require a parent or legal guardian's signature in order to initiate the background check. This is because many states have decided that minors are not capable of giving consent for background checks.
Besides state and county requirements, many juvenile detention centers also require consent from the minor’s parents as well. The same situation applies with abuse and neglect registries, though their information may not even be accessible.
One issue that you will run into when conducting background checks on minors is accessibility. Minors with criminal records - or adults with records from when they were a minor - are difficult to report on. This is because many of the institutions that hold the records will not release them to public inquiry.
In general, juvenile records are not accessible to the public. When conducting a background check, we may be able to see that there is a case in the system, though there will be no details on that case. In other instances, the cases just won’t be reported at all.
The same situation applies to sex offender registries. Though a minor may be on a state sex offender registry, that information may only be accessible to government agencies. In other situations, the minor may not be required to register until they are an adult. States may also decide to only include minors on the sex offender registry if their offense is predatory in nature. This all varies from state to state.
Considerations for Running Background Checks on Minors
It is certainly more difficult to run background checks on minors than on adults. If your applicant has a criminal record, you may not even be able to access it. I wouldn’t be surprised if you are thinking, “this isn’t worth it.” Before you abandon the idea of running background checks on individuals under the age of 18 that apply for positions at your organization, there are a few things that you must consider.
Risk management is one of the major reasons for running background checks on anyone. Will this individual be in a position of great trust or responsibility? Will this person have access to young children or the elderly? It’s important that you weigh the risks when considering whether or not to run background checks.
Consistency is also important in your background screening practices. If you are hiring individuals both above and below 18 years old for the same position, you must either conduct background checks on all of them or none of them. Each person that applies for a position must go through the same screening process.
While it may be more difficult to run background checks on minors, we are here to make it easier for you. You will never need to keep track of which states or institutions require additional releases for minors. If the situation comes up, we’ll keep you covered.