- Identify and hire staff members who have the qualifications and dispositions to work with children and youth.
- Describe general procedures for background screening and documentation.
- Identify resources to learn specific procedures or policies for your Service or installation.
The first step in preventing institutional child abuse and neglect is hiring the right people for your programs. Your programs are only as good as the people who staff them. It is essential that you—and families—trust the people who are providing care for children and youth. However, sometimes you have little control over staffing decisions. Perhaps you are a new manager, and most of the staff members have been employed in the program longer than you have. Perhaps you have very high levels of turnover and it is difficult to find the staff you need for your program. Regardless of your situation, you must take steps to make sure the staff members in your programs are qualified, well-trained, and ready to keep children safe.
The specific steps you will take to hire an individual are prescribed and specific to your program/Service or installation. You will learn more about these procedures through program/Service or installation leaders. This lesson will focus on the “softer side” of hiring: how do you recognize a well-qualified potential staff member when one comes through your hiring channels?
Consider the following scenarios:
- Dee has worked in various child and youth programs longer than you have, and she has applied for a new position in your program. Many of the other staff members roll their eyes and call her “old school.” She has long-held beliefs about how to discipline children that may not be completely consistent with modern developmentally appropriate practice.
- Jose has applied to work in your program. He has lots of experience working with children, but most of his experience has been in programs that are very different from your own. You are concerned that there are some things you do differently. You worry he might struggle to follow your program’s policies.
In both the situations above, you have important decisions to make, and those decisions could have direct implications for keeping children safe in your program. How you make those decisions is a reflection of your own leadership style, but there are important things to consider. The remainder of this lesson will focus on helping you make decisions about the people who will care for children and youth. Remember, these same considerations apply to everyone who has contact with children in your program: food service personnel, maintenance and custodial personnel, volunteers, contractors, and others.
Qualifications to Consider
Your Service program has developed staffing requirements that ensure you hire individuals who have the skills and dispositions necessary to keep children safe. Before hiring an employee, you should carefully consider the needs of your program and the characteristics of the position. These thoughts should be guided or informed by the staffing requirements set by your program or Service . There are two types of qualifications you should consider. First, consider an individual’s background, experiences, and education. An individual with some experience with children or an education in the field of child or school age development is more likely to understand developmental practices. This will help them interact appropriately in the program and to design appropriate experiences. Then, consider the individual’s character or dispositions that will help them build positive relationships with children and will make them a successful member of your team. The qualifications can be assessed through the application questionnaire and crediting plans that are used to screen applicant qualifications such as education, credentials, and experience. Interviews are then used to assess demonstrated competencies and disposition.
Background, Experiences, and Education
There are certain minimum requirements that apply to most state’s and DoD programs. These include:
- 18 years of age
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Initial training
These are minimum qualifications. For teaching staff, you will likely want staff to have additional qualifications. Consider:
- Years of experience working with children
- Additional education or training beyond high school related to early childhood or school-age care
- Credentials such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) or Military Age Associate (MSA)
- Physical or behavioral requirements of the job (i.e., being able to lift 40 lbs throughout the day, remaining calm and professional in stressful situations)
It is important for potential staff members to meet minimum qualifications, but there are many other important characteristics you must consider. You will want to hire staff who are open to learning new ideas and pursuing professional development. You also want staff who will be a good “fit” for your program, and you want staff members who will honor their commitment to keep children safe. When making hiring decisions, consider the disposition of the individual. Disposition is a person’s inherent qualities, personality, or character. Think about the dispositions that are important to you and your program. What qualities make a person a good member of your team? What qualities make a person (a) able to recognize, report, and recover when they suspect a child has been maltreated and (b) less likely to accidentally or intentionally harm a child?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor (O*NET, 2010), the following work styles (or dispositions) are required for employees in child development and school-age programs:
As you look over this list, can you understand why these characteristics might be useful in the prevention of child abuse and neglect? Individuals with these characteristics are likely to follow the policies and procedures your program has put in place to prevent abuse and neglect. They are also likely to remain calm, deal well with stress, and ask for help when it is needed. They are likely to care enough about the children in their care to recognize and respond when a child is in harm’s way. All of these characteristics help prevent abuse and neglect.
Supervise & Support
Procedures for Hiring
Once you have identified the qualifications and characteristics that you desire in an employee, you can begin the hiring process. A successful hiring process consists of multiple stages. Each stage helps you confirm that potential employees have the qualifications and characteristics necessary to keep children safe. The hiring process will be prescribed by your Service, but it often includes: an application, one or more interviews, background screening, reviewing references, and a probationary period (Child Care Aware, 2021). The following sections will describe general information about each of these steps.
Applications are a necessary step for hiring any employee. Applications may be accepted on paper or electronically. An application provides you with a great deal of information about a potential employee’s background, education, and experiences. An application also provides some information about a potential employee’s disposition or characteristics. For example, a written application may give you insight into:
- Attention to detail: Is the application messy or wrinkled? Is there missing information?
- Dependability: Was the application submitted on time? Was it submitted via the requested system (online, mail, in person, etc.)?
- Persistence: Does the applicant follow-up to make sure the application was received? Do they check-in respectfully after a period of time has passed?
Interviews & References
You should conduct face-to-face interviews with potential staff members before hiring. This will help you get a feel for how the staff member interacts and might fit with your program’s philosophy. Look for the dispositions described above. Also look for any warning signs that the individual might not be a good fit for work with children. Make every effort to talk to references rather than simply requesting a written reference. You can gain more information and a better impression of the applicant’s history by having a conversation. To read more about conducting effective interviews, please be sure to review Lesson Two of the Program Management course.
One of your most important responsibilities is keeping the children and youth in your program safe from harm. Criminal history background checks are required for all individuals involved with the provision of C&Y services and programs who have regular contact with children under the age of 18 in Department of Defense (DoD) sanctioned child care services programs (DoDI 1402.05 and DoDM 1402.05, 2015). All existing and newly hired staff must undergo a criminal history check, which includes a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint check and a State Criminal History Repositories (SCHR) check of residences listed on employment applications. Any conviction for a sex crime, an offense involving a child victim, or a drug felony may be ground for denying employment or for dismissal. Conviction of a crime other than a sex crime may be considered if it bears on an individual’s suitability and fitness to have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children. The DoD has the right to deny or remove from employment or volunteer status any applicant or current employee who is determined unsuitable to provide child care services because derogatory information is contained in a suitability investigation. The applicant or employee has the right to be advised of the proposed disciplinary action, decertification, or refusal to hire by the hiring authority. The individual has the opportunity to challenge the accuracy and completeness of reported information.
One of your most important responsibilities is keeping the children and youth in your program safe from harm. All existing and newly hired staff must undergo a criminal history check, which includes a federal and state fingerprint check. This includes a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint check and a State Criminal History Repositories (SCHR) check of residences listed on employment applications. Any conviction for a sex crime, an offense involving a child victim, or a drug felony may be ground for denying employment or for dismissal. Conviction of a crime other than a sex crime may be considered if it bears on an individual’s fitness to have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children. You have the right to deny or remove from employment or volunteer status any applicant or current employee who is determined unsuitable to provide child care services because derogatory information is contained in a suitability investigation. The applicant or employee has the right to be advised of the proposed disciplinary action, decertification, or refusal to hire by the hiring authority. The individual has the opportunity to challenge the accuracy and completeness of reported information.
Orientation vs. Onboarding
Imagine that you started a position at a child care center and on the first day you were put in a room to watch a video, given forms to complete, and then the front desk receptionist asks that you quickly cover in a classroom because a teacher is needed for ratio. Would you want to return the next day? Research has shown that half of all hourly staff leave new jobs in the first 120 days (Kraus, 2010). Recruiting candidates is only the beginning of the process of building an effective team. As a program manager you will be responsible for onboarding all staff; both direct care and support staff that are responsible for the operation of the program running efficiently. It is the collaboration of the entire team that helps the program succeed. Establishing and providing an effective onboarding process is critical in keeping the entire team together. Effective employee onboarding serves three interrelated purposes (ECLKC, 2019):
- Ensures that the new hire feels welcomed, comfortable, prepared and supported.
- These feelings increase the new hire’s ability to make an impact within the organization, both immediately and over time.
- Employee success leads to satisfaction and retention, which allows the organization to continue to meet its mission.
Onboarding is often confused with orientation. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) makes the following distinction between the terms:
New-Hire Orientation is a formal event to introduce the new employee to the organization’s structure, vision, mission, and values; review the employee handbook and highlight major policies; complete required employee paperwork; review pertinent administrative procedures; and provide mandatory training.
Onboarding is a comprehensive process in which new hires are integrated into the organization. It includes activities that allow the new employees to complete an initial new-hire orientation process as well as learn about the organization and its structure, culture, vision, mission and values. This process may involve a series of activities spanning from one or many months.
What the new employee experiences during the onboarding process will influence the individual’s decision to remain on board or to look elsewhere. Your program Service may provide specific onboarding guidance that should detail all required paperwork, trainings and timelines for new hires, that you need to follow, but you should continually assess and work with your team on customizing this process and making it highly effective for your program. Because onboarding is a comprehensive process, the following information highlights some of the onboarding essentials that pertain specifically to all staff who work in child and youth programs.
Department of Defense Instruction 1402.05 (July 14, 2016) allows individuals for whom a criminal history background check has been initiated but not yet completed, to provide direct care to children under line-of-sight supervision (LOSS) upon favorable findings of preliminary investigations. The use of video surveillance equipment to provide temporary oversight for individuals whose required background checks have been initiated but not completed is acceptable provided it is continuously monitored by an individual who has undergone and successfully completed all required background checks.
Individuals required to perform duties only under LOSS may care for children without supervision if:
- Interaction with a child occurs in the presence of the child’s parent or guardian;
- Interaction with children is in a medical facility, subject to supervisory policies of the facility, and in the presence of a mandated reporter of child abuse; or
- Interaction is necessary to prevent death or serious harm to the child, and supervision is impractical or unfeasible (e.g., response to a medical emergency, emergency evacuation of a child from a hazardous location).
There are a variety of ways that programs identify staff members who are permitted to perform duties solely under LOSS must be conspicuously marked by means of distinctive clothing, badges, wristbands, or other visible and apparent markings. The purpose of such markings must be communicated to staff, customers, parents, and guardians by conspicuous posting or printed information.
It is your responsibility to ensure all individuals who have regular contact with children under 18 years of age in DoD child development and youth (C&Y) programs undergo a criminal history background check and annually self-report changes to their criminal histories in order to protect the health, safety, and well-being of children at all times.
Depending on your program’s policies, you may have permission to provisionally hire individuals before the completion of a background check. However, at all times while children are in the care of that individual, the provider must be within line-of-sight and under the supervision of a staff person whose background check has been successfully completed. It is your responsibility to ensure that staffing schedules are designed so all individuals are directly supervised at all times during their probationary periods. It should be noted that background check requirements apply to everyone in your program who has contact with children: supervisors, coaches, food service personnel, maintenance and custodial personnel, volunteers, and contractors.
The next lesson will provide detail on ways to provide ongoing supervision to staff members throughout their careers.
Let’s continue shaping the vision you set in Lesson 1. In that activity, you set a vision for where you want your program to be in one year. Now, complete the Setting the Vision: Staffing activity and think about the staff you need to help make that happen.
There are many policies related to hiring and retaining staff. Take some time to learn about the specific policies in your place of employment. Print the Staff: Frequently Asked Questions handout. Then talk with other leaders on your installation in your program to find answers to standard hiring policies.
Bauer, T. (2010). Onboarding new employees: maximizing success. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/foundation/ourwork/initiatives/resources-from-past-initiatives/Documents/Onboarding%20New%20Employees.pdf
Cannon, B. (2021, June 9). Staff retention from inception: effective interviewing and onboarding in ECE [Webinar]. Early Childhood Investigations Webinars. https://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/webinars/staff-retention-from-inception-effective-interviews-and-onboarding-in-ece-by-beth-cannon/
Child Care Aware. (n.d.). Background screenings. https://www.childcareaware.org/families/child-care-regulations/background-checks/
Department of Defense. (2015, September 11). Background checks on individuals in DoD child care services programs (DoDI 1402.5). https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/140205p.pdf
Department of Defense. (n.d.). Background checks on individuals in department of defense child development and youth programs (DoDM 1402.5).
Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center. (2019). Ensuring new employee’s success: best practices for employee onboarding. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/human-resources/article/ensuring-new-employees-success-best-practices-employee-onboarding
Maurer, R. (2021). New employee onboarding guide. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/new-employee-onboarding-guide.aspx
Tulshyan, Ruchika. (2019, June 28). How to reduce personal bias when hiring. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/06/how-to-reduce-personal-bias-when-hiring
U.S. Army (23 May 2012). CYS Services Child Abuse Reporting Training Aid.