Background Checks for Prospective Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Caregivers - Tennessee

Date: September 2018

Who Needs Records Checks

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 71-3-507; 37-2-414; 71-3-501; 49-1-1102

Background checks are required for the following persons:

  • A person applying to work or substitute in any capacity as a paid employee, licensee, or operator, substitute or volunteering, with children with the entities listed below or who otherwise has access to children in those entities
  • An applicant for a foster parent position or an applicant to be an adoptive parent
  • A person age 15 or older who resides in a child care agency
  • A person seeking to become a kinship foster parent for a related child

The term 'child care agency' includes a family child care home, a group child care home, a child care center, or a drop-in center. The term 'child care program' includes the following:

  • Child care for children in a before- or after school-based program operated by a local board of education
  • A public school-administered early childhood education program
  • A church-affiliated program
  • A federally funded early childhood education program such as a title I program, a school-administered Head Start program, or an Even Start program
  • A State-approved Montessori school program
  • A program operated by a private school

Types of Records That Must Be Checked

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 71-3-507; 37-2-414

For a prospective foster or adoptive parent and persons who will be employed by or otherwise present at a child care agency or child care program, the background check shall include the following:

  • A fingerprint-based review of criminal and juvenile records available to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to be conducted by the TBI
  • A review of the person's status on the Department of Health's vulnerable persons registry
  • A review of the person's status on the State sex offender registry
  • A review of the Department of Children's Services and the Department of Human Services records of indicated perpetrators of abuse or neglect of children or adults
  • A review of equivalent administrative registries in any jurisdiction in which the person has resided in the past 5 years
  • A review of any available juvenile records in juvenile court

A person may become a kinship foster parent only upon the completion of an investigation to ascertain if there is a State or Federal record of criminal history for the prospective kinship foster parent or any other adult residing in the prospective parent's home.

Process for Obtaining Records Checks

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-5-511; 71-3-507

Each person requiring a background check shall complete a criminal history disclosure form and shall agree to release all records involving the person relating to his or her criminal history. The person also shall supply fingerprint samples to the TBI and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and shall submit to a review of his or her status on the vulnerable persons registry.

The disclosure forms shall disclose any information relative to any violations of the law, including pending criminal charges of any kind, and provide space for the applicant to state any circumstances that should be considered in determining whether to allow the person to be approved.

The disclosure form shall be sent to the department by the child care agency and, pursuant to § 38-6-109, the department may directly access the computer files of the TBI's Tennessee Crime Information Center using only names or other identifying data elements contained in the disclosure form or such other information as may be available to the department to obtain available Tennessee criminal history background information for the purpose of criminal background reviews.

If information obtained by this method indicates that there exists or may exist a criminal record on the individual, the department shall further review the criminal record history with the individual and the entity with whom the individual is associated to obtain further verification, and the department shall request fingerprint samples from the individual and submit the fingerprints for a complete Tennessee and Federal criminal history background review pursuant to § 38-6-109.

Grounds for Disqualification

Citation: Ann. Code § 71-3-507

No person shall be approved as a foster or adoptive parent, and no person shall be employed with, be a licensee, or operator of, provide substitute services to, or have any access whatsoever to children in a child care agency or program, if that person's criminal or available juvenile background records, registry, or perpetrator records demonstrate that the person has been convicted of or pled guilty or no contest to an offense or lesser included offense, is the subject of a juvenile petition or finding that would constitute an offense or lesser included offense, or whose criminal or juvenile background history report or other information demonstrates the existence of a pending warrant, indictment, presentment or petition, involving the following:

  • The physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect of a child
  • A crime of violence against a child or any person
  • Any offense determined by the department, pursuant to properly promulgated rules, to present a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of children
  • The identification of the person on the vulnerable persons registry, the State sex offender registry, or department records of indicated perpetrators of abuse or neglect of children or adults or available juvenile court records, demonstrates a history that would require the person's exclusion under this part