Does Care.com Run Adequate Background Checks?​

May 30, 2019
After a woman with a long and serious criminal history was approved as a nanny, the company’s background screening policies are being questioned.
Backgrounds Online | May 30, 2019


After a woman with a long and serious criminal history was approved as a nanny, the company’s background screening policies are being questioned.

Nanny With A Record

When a couple in Boston needed help providing care for their children, they turned to Care.com. The website allows customers to find a variety of providers for seniors, children and pets. Visitors can enter a specific set of criteria to help them pinpoint someone who is well-suited for their situation.

The Boston couple selected a woman named Stephanie Lee Fox. After she had been employed as their nanny for a few months, the couple determined that Fox had stolen over $280,000 from their bank account. They filed charges and soon after learned their nanny had a lengthy criminal record.

After the couple’s story went public, the Boston Globe conducted an investigation on Fox. They found 111 charges against her, including theft, identity fraud, forgery and receiving stolen property. These charges were filed in multiple counties where the woman had lived during a seven-year period.

Fox pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges after being arrested for allegedly stealing from the Boston couple. This case brought a great deal of scrutiny to the background screening practices utilized by Care.com.

Background Checks For Care.com

People who are approved to provide care must then authorize a background screening. Care.com offers four levels. Their website cautions visitors that the results may not be accurate or complete. It also advises customers to do their own research on potential caregivers.

The couple from Boston suggested that Care.com should have, at minimum, uncovered the woman’s criminal records in Massachusetts. Had any details about her convictions been revealed, the couple would not have employed her. At the time Fox was hired, she was on probation and was in the process of paying back debts created by her previous criminal activities.

Finding Criminal Records

One of the primary purposes of a background check is to reveal reportable criminal records that could show a person might be a security risk. In the case of Fox, numerous convictions could have been returned in a background report. This information should have immediately disqualified her as a caregiver.

So how are criminal records found?
A comprehensive background check begins with a Social Security Number Trace. This confirms the person’s identity and shows counties where they have lived. That information informs a Consumer Reporting Agency where to run county criminal searches. This involves going directly to county courthouses to obtain accurate and up-to-date records.

The background report can be expanded by adding state, nationwide and federal criminal searches. These searches can show if a person has a conviction in a location where they have not recently lived. When results are found, they are typically followed up with a county search to again obtain the most complete information available.

Without running a suite of criminal searches, serious convictions can go unnoticed. That was the case with Fox. Had a thorough background check been run; she would not have been approved as a nanny and then hired by the Boston couple.

Other Cases Against Care.com

The Boston situation is not the only time Care.com’s screening policies have been questioned. Cases of abuse and even wrongful deaths have been levied against providers who were listed on the website. In some of these cases, the provider was later found to have a variety of convictions, including drunken driving and violent crimes.

People who are hired to provide care are expected to be thoroughly screened and deemed safe to work with vulnerable populations. When it is learned that someone was approved as a care provider despite having serious convictions, people may question whether or not it is safe to utilize services from the company that authorized such individuals. The Boston couple who hired Fox was quoted as saying: "The background screening system exists solely to catch people like her. It's a real shame in this case it failed."

Key Takeaway For Employers

Every employer is responsible for taking steps to ensure the people they hire or allow to represent them are safe and reliable. This is accomplished by running background checks after an interview or conditional offer and before a final hiring decision is made. These reports show if a candidate has serious criminal records and can verify they have the required education, employment history, license or credential.

When you are bringing on employees, contractors or volunteers, start with a comprehensive background check. The team at Backgrounds Online can help you create screening packages that are ideal for any type of position. Contact us for expert assistance Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.