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TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would provide secure access to background checks for employers seeking to hire nannies and au pairs was approved today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

The bill, S-1825, would provide employers with access to background checks for individuals seeking employment as in-home caregivers, also known as “nannies” or “au pairs.” According to the legislation, in-home caregivers are defined as individuals over the age of 16 who are not related to the family and who provide in-home child care services. In-home caregivers may or may not live in their employer’s home and, as part of the conditions of the job, may perform housekeeping duties. The bill does not apply to “babysitters,” defined under current law as individuals under 16 who are temporarily entrusted with the care of children.

“Parents looking to hire qualified caregivers for their children deserve to have full background information of applicants before making a decision,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “This is critical for families seeking nannies and au pairs, including those who may live in their household. A full criminal background check will help provide parents with the peace of mind that a caregiver is the right person for that important job.”

Under the bill, the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety would be required to invite all in-home care giver job placement agencies to register with the Division. Agencies would be charged registration fees and administrative and processing costs for background checks. If the agency’s application is approved by the Division, registration renewals would be issued every three years. An agency may be removed from the program if good reason is shown that it has violated any rules and regulations established by the Division. Registering for the program would be optional.

After registering, an agency may request the Division for a criminal history background check for any care giver who provides written consent and is looking to secure a position. The Division would be responsible for processing background checks, including fingerprint data and information on past criminal records, according to the legislation. A person who is cleared through the background check would receive a certificate from the Director of the Division verifying that he or she has never been convicted of a crime while the employment agency may use this certificate as verification to hire an individual.

If a person is found to have a criminal history, the individual would also have the opportunity within 30 days to challenge the accuracy of the information and provide convincing evidence that he or she has been rehabilitated. Given the applicant’s reasons, the Director of the Division would be required to determine if a person is rehabilitated by assessing the nature and seriousness of the offense, the circumstances in which it occurred, the applicant’s age at the time of the crime, if the offense was repeated, and other conditions and evidence during the time of the offense.

“Providing an optional program where in-home caregiver agencies can have access to background checks is beneficial to both the employer and applicant,” added Senator Turner. “Background checks processed through the Division would allow for a more streamlined and secure procedure, in which agencies can make an informed decision while applicants can make a case for their credibility if they are found to have a criminal history.”

The Division would also be required to enact any necessary regulations and inform the public of available caregivers who have undergone background checks to encourage families to hire certified nannies and au pairs.

S-1825 was cleared by the Committee with a vote of 4-0. It now heads to the Senate pending consideration.