ALWAYS CHECK PROVIDERS OF SERVICES
TO VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
There are few situations in which reference checking is more important than those which involve a vulnerable population, such as children, the elderly, and those in nursing homes or hospitals. A recent story in an area newspaper highlighted the scope of the problem. A state senator visited a day care center and saw mouse droppings on a sticky kitchen floor, food warming unattended on a stove, and only 2 adults supervising 56 children! In addition, the couple who ran the day care center had received about $10 million in taxpayer dollars over the last five years! At the moment, the couple is awaiting trial on 27 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy.
While the story is bad enough in itself, one has to wonder how the parents of the 56 children could not have known of the conditions and reputation of this day care center before sending their pre-school age children there. It is almost impossible to understand why the parents of these children wouldn’t have done just a little reference checking before enrolling their children in any day care facility!
A reference check would have exposed the poor quality and lack of cleanliness of the day care center, and parents could have made an informed decision on a more appropriate day care facility for their children.
Equally appalling is the number of nursing homes that don’t even do a simple background check on nurses’ aides before hiring them to help provide essential care to the elderly. For all any of them know, a new nurses’ aide could be a convicted felon who has a history of abusing others. A simple court check would be better than nothing, but an even more effective action would be contacting references for candidates for these types of positions.
At an even higher level, because of the huge shortage of registered nurses, many major hospitals don’t bother to check the references or backgrounds of candidates for nursing positions. Given the risk of patient abuse by nurses who are allegedly hooked on narcotics, it’s a wonder that more patients aren’t harmed.
The same sort of thing is true about public schools that put children under the supervision of volunteer coaches or activity sponsors. Seldom, if ever, are backgrounds or references checked to insure that the candidate for a volunteer coaching position isn’t a convicted sex offender!
The point is that, for relatively little expense, parents, nursing homes, hospitals, and public schools have a responsibility to make sure that those who are going to have authority over a vulnerable population have background and reference checks conducted on them before the day care center is selected or before care givers are hired by extended care facilities, hospitals, and public schools.
The failure to check those who are going to care for members of any vulnerable population is one of the dirty little secrets that are only uncovered when, unfortunately, a tragedy is uncovered.