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As we all watch in horror as the facts unfold regarding the heartbreaking story of the gruesome death of two young children at the hands of a nanny in New York City, the focus of many may turn to what they can do to learn more about the people they bring into their homes to care for a child, a parent, a spouse or a loved one. While there may be no way to protect against a tragic event perhaps brought on by an undiagnosed mental illness or pure evil, there are some steps families may take on their own that will allow them to learn more about the people they are hiring into their homes. The following are some examples:
Criminal records are public documents. They are available to the public upon request. For example, in New York State, you may obtain records of criminal convictions in the state directly from the NYS Office of Court Administration. The request form may be downloaded from the website of the Office of Court Administration. The completed form may be mailed or hand-delivered to the Office of Court Administration. The fee charged by the Office of Court Administration is $65.
The New York State eCourts website provides information, free of charge, on active (and some closed) criminal cases.
Also in New York State, there is a website that may be accessed free of charge that provides a list of individuals who have been officially designated as sex offenders: the New York Sex Offender Registry. There is also a website that provides a nationwide list of individuals who are registered as sex offenders: the Druthers Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice. That information is also available free of charge.
Finally, traditional search engines, such as Google, are a gateway to vast amounts of information about prospective employees, including some criminal records, police blotter information and media references. Moreover, social networking sites, publicly and legally available and accessible, often provide useful insights and information.
Of course, in doing any research on an individual, care must be taken to ensure that the correct person is being researched. Therefore, it is critical to obtain from a prospective caregiver accurate information regarding date of birth, social security number and addresses. Documentation confirming those details should be obtained as part of any interview process to ensure the accuracy of any research done.