The Fundamentals of Background Checks
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Written by Mallory Adamson from Yardstik, TeamSnap’s new partner for background checks
Just as helmets have evolved as we’ve become more educated about concussions, background checks (and the types of background screening encouraged in the youth sports space) have also evolved—both for the better.
You wouldn’t send your kid out onto the ice with a leather helmet from the 1930s and be confident that they’re well protected from injury. Running a high-level check that only hits a national database is like strapping a leather cap onto your kiddo’s head and expecting them to be safe enough.
Nowadays, there’s a plethora of impact-tested top-of-the-line helmets, mouth guards, and training that exist to protect your athletes. Background checks are kind of like that. You have plenty of options, but choosing the right ones can feel overwhelming—and the deeper you get into research, the more confusing it can become.
We’re here to help make that decision-making process a little easier for you. At Yardstik, we run background checks and verifications for various youth sports organizations of all different shapes and sizes. Here are a few of the most common questions and topics we find ourselves educating our customers on in the youth sports space:
Can I just run my own background checks?
For your own sake, please don’t.
Yardstik, like most other credible background check providers, acts as a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) and must abide by the strict standards set by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
As you can probably imagine, the background check industry is highly regulated. We deal with lots of sensitive information with a high potential for risk. Any credible CRA, like Yardstik, will have compliance safeguards baked into their technology, so you don’t have to tapdance around regulations or stress over the legal ramifications of your actions. You can stay focused on what you do best.
And those regulations aren’t only in place to protect you. They also protect your candidate’s rights in the hiring process. Among other things, the FCRA requires that your candidate authorizes the background check and has ample opportunity to dispute any records found that would otherwise disqualify them from the job (through something called a pre-adverse action process).
In short, when you do background checks the right way, many steps are involved, and they’re all important. Shortchanging that process with an Internet search puts you in some seriously dangerous waters.
Can I just run a national background check to catch everything?
Unfortunately, no publicly accessible database covers every state, county, and federal level felony and misdemeanor conviction (our jobs at Yardstik would be much easier if there were).
Cheap and instant background screening options may be tempting, but be careful. Those services typically run a single name scan of a database that only covers specific types of criminal records, and the database may not be regularly updated.
Plus, if you pull out your magnifying glass and check the fine print of the agreements on those types of instant national services, you may find some legal language stating that you cannot use the results for hiring purposes. Ignoring that could violate the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and cause you some major, major legal headaches down the road.
So then, what’s the most accurate source of information?
In short, county courthouses are the holy grail and house the most accurate information. In the high-stakes world of youth sports safety, this is where you want to be focused.
You’ll want to include a few major national database searches in your background check package—like the National Sex Offender Registry, Most Wanted List, and OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control). Make sure these are included in your background check package.
Most background check packages will also include something commonly referred to as a pointer search. A pointer search effectively surveys hundreds of databases, including results from across the country, looking for any potential record matches with your candidate.
Because these pointer search databases aren’t 100% accurate and may not be 100% up-to-date, a pointer search alone won’t catch everything (or it might find a record that doesn’t belong to your candidate). For that reason, your CRA (like Yardstik) is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to validate any pointer search results by searching for the same record at the county level to provide you with the most accurate report.
Finally, and most importantly, we recommend that every youth sports organization we work with goes straight to the source as part of any criminal background check package. That means direct county-level searches.
In our most popular youth sports criminal background check package, in addition to running national database and pointer searches, Yardstik will pull the candidate’s address history and search for records in every county that they have resided in over the past 7-years. It’s our most comprehensive criminal background check for an industry where you can’t afford to cut corners.
Anything else I should know about county courthouse searches?
You should know that county courthouses are all run differently and can have some quirks.
It’s hard to believe, but some don’t have electronic records, and some require in-person searches. And with all these variables, unavoidable delays sometimes happen (in some places more often than others). Your CRA should be able to help you identify where potential delays might occur and when they do get delayed, provide insight into where your background check is getting hung up.
The other ugly truth about county courthouses is that some include surcharges to access records. Not all, but some do. And those surcharges can vary wildly from county to county. Be aware that they’re out there and understand that most CRAs (again, like Yardstik) will pass those surcharges along to you. We don’t mark them up or make any profit off them, but they’re out there, so we don’t want to catch anyone off guard.
Looking to upgrade from the metaphorical leather cap of background screening?
If you want to learn more about background screening or Yardstik, check out this page and fill out the form to connect with me directly. I’d love to connect with you!