Ask Jack: How Far Should Your Due Diligence Go When Hiring To Create A Child Safe Environment?

By Jack McCalmon, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

I am part of an organization that works with children. I am nervous about making a mistake and hiring the wrong person. What can I do to keep children safe?

You are taking the first step, which is understanding that every hire who will be working with, or around, children is a potential risk.

The next step is having a criminal background check performed, with an understanding that most perpetrators do not have a criminal record.

The next step is to perform due diligence that makes certain that the candidate has a history of being safe around children. That requires you to seek out past employers and references and ask questions that confirm the candidate is safe with children, including respecting physical, verbal, and emotional boundaries.

Unfortunately, too many organizations that work with children stop performing due diligence at the criminal background check stage, believing the check proves a candidate is safe. A background clear of criminal charges does not mean a candidate is safe around children – it only means that the candidate does not have a criminal history. To get beyond a record, an organization must communicate effectively with all of a candidate's former and present employers.

For example, in Texas, a former teacher has now been accused of sexually abusing young children, including an elementary student. The accused worked for one district where he had an incident with a child. He worked for a neighboring district as well, where he was terminated for violating the code of conduct. Why the two districts did not communicate with each other after the first incident is now in question.

The takeaway is to take the time to review a candidate's entire background, criminal or otherwise, to make certain the candidate is safe with children.

Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, and Emily Brodzinski are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.

If you have a question that you would like Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, or Emily Brodzinski to consider for this column, please submit it to Please note that The McCalmon Group cannot guarantee that your question will be answered. Answers are based on generally accepted risk management best practices. They are not, and should not be considered, legal advice. If you need an answer immediately or desire legal advice, please call your local legal counsel.



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