Review of pre-employment screening practices to prevent child sexual abuse

Title: Scoping review: Evaluations of pre-employment screening practices for child-related work that aim to prevent child sexual abuse
Authors: Parenting Research Centre and the University of Melbourne
Commissioned by: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Published: 2015

As part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Parenting Research Centre and the University of Melbourne were commissioned to examine the role of pre-employment screening in preventing child sexual abuse.

The final report found that criminal background checks had limited effectiveness when used as the only safeguard but are important components of pre-employment screening practices. Background checks are most effective when combined with other safeguards, such as thorough reference checks and verification of the applicant’s identity, employment history and qualifications.

The report includes the following key findings:

  • Criminal background checks appear to be universally considered an important component of pre-employment screening practices.
  • Criminal background checks are most effective when combined with other pre-employment screening practices including:
    • thorough reference checks including direct questions about any concerns regarding the applicant's suitability to work with children
    • structured employment interviews with a focus on determining the applicant's suitability to work with children
    • checks against other sources of information on suspected or substantiated child abuse, for example child abuse registries, Children's Court decisions, disciplinary body proceedings
    • critical examination of an applicant's employment history and/or written application
    • verification of the applicant's identity using, for example, photo-based documents or finger-printing
    • verification of the applicant's education and/or qualifications.

Given the methodological difficulties in measuring the effect of pre-employment screening on rates of child sexual abuse it is not surprising that the review did not identify any rigorous evaluations of these practices.

Read more on the Royal Commission website.