Better Background Checks for Homecare Workers in Wash. State

In several instances, we have seen what happens when childcare centers, senior homes, schools, and contractors do not conduct thorough background checks. Making sure each employee has a clean background is crucial to the safety of those being cared for and should take precedence over the cost of such procedures. To combat this, Washington state passed Initiative 1163 three years ago, and in concept, the law is well-meaning: all homecare workers need to pass a pre-employment background check and complete 75 hours of basic training to pass a certification exam. Yet, training aside, the law has a significant loophole: background checks are only conducted with a state-wide scope.

According to The News Tribune, voters supported Initiative 1163 three years ago, but since the the law went into place, instances of senior abuse have increased. Residential Care Services reported a 15-percent increase of worker citations, while Adult Protective Services saw instances of abuse – encompassing neglect, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse – go up 31.5 percent.

Homecare workers, however, are helpful to eligible low-income seniors on Medicare. Not being placed in a nursing home, a senior is still able to interact and be connected with his or her surrounding community while receiving necessary care.

Initiative 1163 is in the right place but, so far, has not been executed properly. In order to have a pool of workers that are both certified and free of criminal charges, thorough background checks on a national level need to be conducted. With the current law, any crimes committed out of state – even felonies or abuse-related charges – would not show up on a background check; as a result, a clean-seeming worker may actually be a threat to a low-income senior needing care. Thorough background checks that examine national criminal databases, instead, would provide full information on each homecare candidate.