FTC: Consumer Privacy Comments Concerning Childcare Checkpoint--P974806
June 5, 1997
Mr. Donald S. Clark
RE: Database Study -- Comment P974806
Dear Mr. Clark:
Helpless children across America could be needlessly subjected to abuse, neglect and harmful day care environments if proposed privacy laws eliminate access to information vital to conducting background checks on day care providers, including nannies, in home providers and day care centers. For example, laws could unnecessarily restrict access to credit header information, which is now available as part of a simple social security number trace.
Acting on behalf of parents hiring a day care provider, Childcare Checkpoint conducts a social security number trace as the necessary first step in every single background check done. The credit header information that we obtain is nothing more than an address history, but it enables us to see if the person is using a false identity, is fraudulently using another person's social security number, and it directs us to the proper counties in which to conduct criminal conviction checks. There is no alternative source for this information.
Thus, the social security number trace is absolutely vital to parents' ability to do a background check on day care providers who will shape, and could destroy their children's lives. If laws were to require advance consent from the subject of the trace, it would put the offenders in control, allowing them to easily escape detection. I cannot imagine that the minimal privacy interests at stake here could possibly outweigh the best interests of the children, or the interests of their parents, who must be afforded the opportunity to know who it is they are really hiring to watch their children.
To clarify any misconceptions, a social security trace is NOT a way to look up a person's social security number by entering their name. Rather, it is a way to look up address history by entering a social security number that is ALREADY KNOWN. This is a very important distinction in terms of privacy issues.
If you saw what we see in conducting these background checks, you too would be alarmed at the prospect of the United States Government passing any laws which would assist child abusers, criminals and irresponsible care providers to mislead parents about their background and qualifications. According to the Department of Justice, one out of every five people has a criminal record. Childcare Checkpoint has uncovered abusers, sex offenders, felons, drunk drivers, perpetrators of fraud and people who lied about their experience and training.
According to the National Committee To Prevent Child Abuse(NCPCA), in 1996 alone over three million children were reported as victims of child abuse and neglect. An estimated 1046, or three children per day, died in 1996 as a result of child abuse and neglect. Dr. Anne Cohn Donnely, executive director of NCPCA has said "Child abuse has become a major health issue in our country. But it is a problem that can and must be prevented before it occurs." That is precisely what a thorough background check can do. Passage of privacy laws could severely cripple these efforts.
The impact of such changes would be especially harmful here in Arizona where state regulation of child care is among the worst in the country. Last year, the Arizona Office Of Child Care Licensure was cut nearly in half, at a time when the number of working mothers and children in day care is reaching new highs. In Arizona alone, there are at least 110,000 children who receive day care from a person other than a family member, and 35% of these are infants and toddlers.
I would like to point out that electronic databases which make public information accessible across state lines benefit our nation in the following ways:
1. Prevent child abuse by facilitating background checks on child care providers.
2. Prevent elderly abuse by facilitating background checks on elder care providers.
3. Prevent crime and corporate loss by facilitating pre-employment screening, particularly for high risk positions such as security guards, bank tellers, and janitorial/maintenance staff.
4. Promote safety in apartment complexes by facilitating proper screening of apartment managers and tenants.
5. Prevent loan fraud and other financial crime by enabling lenders to do thorough background and asset checks on personal and business loan applicants.
6. Reduce lawsuits by enabling attorneys to do asset checks and avoid suing those unable to pay.
7. Promote justice by enabling key witnesses to be located.
8. Help medical research by enabling doctors to locate subjects who participate in lifelong studies.
9. Promote health awareness by enabling children to locate birth parents to obtain medical histories.
10. Prevent repeat criminals from traveling from state to state without being detected by enabling background checks to be done at the time they apply for a new job or new housing.
Those are just some of the many benefits of allowing records to be available. The fact that many of them have become available electronically simply means that we are no longer limited by state lines, which is very important as people have become more transient. I also feel that giving individual consumers control over the level of privacy they will have could enable criminals and debtors to escape detection by their own choice.
When considering any issue pertaining to public records and privacy, please keep in mind that most people, especially licensed private investigators like myself do not look up information about people to by "nosey." They do it for all of the reasons listed above. I can say personally that I had to earn my license, through solid qualifications and a stringent background check on me. I would not jeopardize that license by compromising my integrity in any way. Requiring a license for retrieval of some types of records could be a viable solution.
If you would like to discuss any of these issues further, please feel free to call me.
Sally S. Jozef