Background Checks for Prospective Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Caregivers - District of Columbia

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Who Needs Records Checks

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1305.02; 4-1501.03

The following individuals shall apply for a criminal records check:

  • An individual who seeks to be approved or licensed as an adoptive parent by the Child and Family Services Agency or by any licensed child-placing agency
  • An individual who seeks to be approved or licensed as a foster parent by the agency or by any licensed child-placing agency
  • An individual who seeks to be approved as a kinship caregiver or legal guardian
  • An adult residing in the home of an individual described above

The following individuals also must apply for criminal background checks:

  • An applicant who is under consideration for paid employment by a covered child or youth services provider
  • An applicant who is under consideration for voluntary service in an unsupervised position by a covered child or youth services provider
  • An employee of a covered child or youth services provider
  • A volunteer who serves a covered child or youth services provider in an unsupervised position

Types of Records That Must Be Checked

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1305.01; 4-1407.01

A criminal records check consists of a search of criminal records to determine whether an individual has a criminal conviction that is performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of national records, and by the following:

  • The Metropolitan Police Department, if the individual as an adult has resided, worked, or attended school in the District at any time in the past 5 years
  • The State's law enforcement agency, if the individual as an adult has resided, worked, or attended school outside of the District at any time in the past 5 years

Prior to placement of a child in a family home, a licensed child-placing agency shall obtain written consent from applicants for release of information from the following:

  • The D.C. Child Protection Register
  • Registers of child abuse and neglect located in all States, territories, and possessions of the United States in which the applicant has resided within the previous 5 years
  • If applicable, from any registers maintained by any branch of the armed forces of the United States

Process for Obtaining Records Checks

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1305.01; 4-1305.03; 4-1305.05

An 'information form' is a written statement in a form established by the agency that:

  • Is signed by the individual under penalty of perjury
  • Identifies each State in which the individual has resided, worked, or attended school at any time in the past 5 years
  • Identifies each felony for which the individual has been convicted as an adult and the date and State of that conviction
  • Identifies each State in which the individual is currently on parole or probation
  • Includes any other information required by the agency

An applicant shall apply for a criminal records check by submitting the following to the agency, licensed child-placing agency, or the police:

  • A complete set of legible fingerprints taken on standard fingerprint cards by the agency or the police
  • Payment of the fees and costs of the criminal records check
  • The completed information form
  • Any documentation required to conduct a criminal records check by a State identified in the completed information form

The agency or licensed child-placing agency shall forward the fingerprints to the police or State law enforcement agency. The police shall:

  • Access the District criminal records history
  • Transmit all complete sets of legible fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and request the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a national criminal records check and return the results to the police or state law enforcement agency

The agency or licensed child-placing agency shall request the law enforcement agency of each State identified in the completed information form to conduct a State criminal records check and return the results to the agency or licensed child-placing agency, as appropriate. If the agency or licensed child-placing agency has already determined that an individual has a disqualifying conviction, it is not required to make further requests to additional States.

Grounds for Disqualification

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1305.06; 4-1305.07

An individual shall not be approved or licensed if it is determined from the criminal records check that the individual, or an adult residing in the home of the individual, has a felony conviction for any of the following offenses or their equivalents:

  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect
  • An intrafamily offense, as defined in § 16-1001(8)
  • A crime against children, including child pornography
  • A crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide, but not including other physical assault or battery

An individual shall not be approved if it is determined from the criminal records check that the individual, or an adult residing in the home of the individual, has a felony conviction for any of the following offenses or their equivalents committed within the past 5 years:

  • Physical assault or battery
  • A drug-related offense

An individual may be approved if:

  • The individual has a felony conviction for any of the offenses listed above and, after a discretionary agency review of the conviction and current circumstances, it is determined that approval would be consistent with the health, safety, and welfare of children, provided that any adoption-assistance payments or foster care maintenance payments made on behalf of a child to an individual shall not be made with Federal funds provided through title IV-E of the Social Security Act.
  • An adult residing in the home of the individual, but not the individual who seeks to be approved, has a felony conviction for any of the offenses listed above and, after a discretionary agency review of the conviction and current circumstances, it is determined that an approval would be consistent with the health, safety, and welfare of children.

If an individual who is required to obtain a criminal records check, or any adult residing in the home of that individual, fails to do so as required, the agency may deny approval or licensure.

If a prospective adoptive parent or any adult residing in the home fails to request a criminal records check as required, the Family Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia may dismiss the petition for adoption.