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      Don't be careless when selecting caregivers

      Choosing a caregiver or group home for a loved one with special needs can be a difficult experience.

      Studies show that people with developmental disabilities are four to ten times more likely to have acts of violence committed against them.

      How can you be sure your loved one is safe?

      A recent story on our website received a wave of reaction to a caregiver convicted of sexually abusing a woman with Down Syndrome. But this victim isn't alone. Research shows 15,000 to 19,000 people with developmental disabilities are raped every year in the United States; only 3 percent of the cases are reported.

      "We donâ??t hear about it because a person with a disability might not know how to express whatâ??s happening or that their rights have been violated in some way," explained Sarah Peura, Executive Director of SAIL, Superior Alliance for Independent Living .

      SAIL gives families advice on choosing care for loved ones with special needs, and employees encourage anyone in search of a personal caregiver to do their homework.

      "You just really need to be aware," Peura insisted. "Do your research, talk to individuals and get those background checks."

      A background check form was recently drafted in Marquette County that can be dropped off to local law enforcement.

      Marquette City Police Chief Gordon Warchock said families can come to the department where the person lives and turn it in. "They can check their records to see if thereâ??s been any kind of police contacts," said Warchock.

      But the check wouldn't be statewide. If you go to the Michigan State Police website and click iChat, for $10 you can receive the personâ??s criminal history in the State of Michigan.

      As for group homes, Public Act 29, adopted in 2006, requires any employees in a licensed adult foster care home to undergo a check that would reveal any criminal history nationwide. Any criminal history would make the applicant ineligible for employment.

      "If the employee is arrested or convicted of a crime we are notified," said Karen LaFave, CEO of Adult Learning Systems . "That's one way of protecting vulnerable adults."

      Experts add, simple communication between you and your loved one and those caring for them can be the key to stopping abuse.