Minn. Allowing Former Criminals to be Employed as Care Workers

Many states require care workers – those working with the elderly, children, or the disabled – to have clean criminal backgrounds. Minnesota is one such state, but the Star Tribune revealed recently that 15,000 waivers have been granted to former criminals looking for such jobs. Taking additional steps away from safety, the state does not check for criminal convictions outside of borders when doing background screenings, and those looking for state-run care options are informed that all workers have clean backgrounds.

How does this process work? According to the Star Tribune, a former criminal can appeal for a second chance, regardless of whether his or her record includes felonies or misdemeanors. The former criminal needs to document how he or she has changed, provide references, and prove that he or she is no longer a risk. Yet, even with this process, some have still slipped through the cracks, harming clients or stealing money to fund a drug habit.

Stella French, a Health Department manager, thinks the process works. She told the press: “I believe it’s working. I believe we have a thorough process, that we have checks and balances that minimizes the risk to vulnerable adults. … If there’s any question, we go with not setting that person aside.”

On the other hand, some care centers still reject former criminals, waiver or not. Tom Pollock, administrator of Park River Estates Care Center in Coon Rapids, explained: If you’re willing to write a bad check, from our standpoint you’re willing to steal from the bank. If you’re willing to do that and you have all these vulnerable adults, we just don’t want to take the chance.”

While former criminals are not barred from employment, their past crimes are factored into hiring decisions. Although a former criminal with a record unrelated to, say, an office job does not pose a threat, leaving such an individual in charge of taking care of the most vulnerable can be.