More than 400,000 Oklahomans had their backgrounds checked last year so they could pursue everything from legally carrying a concealed handgun to exercising a race horse.
Some Oklahoma parents even paid to check out their daughters’ boyfriends. Most checks were limited to Oklahoma, but more than 20,000 involved national searches, according to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation statistics. Certified schoolteachers, foster care parents and adoptive parents must pass a national check. But people such as child care providers and employees of care homes for the mentally disabled only need pass a state inquiry. "We certainly would love to do anything to make sure the children are safe in child care,” said Janice Matthews, licensing coordinator for the state Department of Human Services’ child care services. The national recommendation is that all child care homes complete national fingerprint-based background checks, a measure proposed for Oklahoma a few years ago. But Matthews said it was dropped because neither the state nor many of the roughly 4,000 mom-and-pop child care centers could afford to pay the $41 fee.
Care homes require check of workersMuch like employees of child care centers, Oklahoma’s care homes for the mentally ill, mentally disabled and seniors in need of assistance require name-search, state background checks. Home of Hope in Vinita now uses a national background search, state Department of Corrections sex offender data searches and other Internet tools to check out employees after hiring a man who was accused of raping a resident in 2008. The home had completed a state background check but former employee Jerald Ray Bishop’s sexual criminal history in California wasn’t revealed. A national background search, available from the FBI through the OSBI when allowed by state statute, would have shown his criminal history in another state, said the care home’s human resources director, Carolyn Chapman. "I would encourage any agency similarly situated to consider that they need to utilize national databases, not relying strictly on the state,” she said. For homes such as Home of Hope, there is no statutory authority to do a fingerprint-based national criminal background check through OSBI and FBI, said Debbie McKinney, OSBI administrative programs officer.
Who receives background checks?McKinney said that a national background search would be more effective for the state’s care homes for the mentally ill and disabled. "But the stumbling block there is cost and timeliness,” she said. State background checks cost $15 and take about 15 minutes.