Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Designing and Building a Background Check Web Application

Project Type
Web Application










In 2017, changes to the federal Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which funds early education and care programs in Massachusetts, required new Background Record Check (BRC) requirements go into effect on October 1, 2018 and continue to be phased in through September 30, 2020. Compliance with new Federal requirements for screening childcare workers required the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to replace the existing legacy 'BRC Manager' system. Building a new, cloud-based application that streamlines the existing process, reduces the existing backlog ('time to hire'), enabled EEC to improve customer service and significantly increase the productivity of its team in conducting CORI, SORB, DCF, and Fingerprint checks on early education and childcare business owners and employees in Massachusetts.

EEC processes 80,000+ background record checks annually for early education and childcare providers. Childcare business owners and employees go through a defined process for background checks that includes inquiry and review of CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information), SORB (Sex Offender Registry Board), DCF (Massachusetts Dept of Children and Families), and Fingerprinting systems. Applicants are notified and have the right to review and dispute accuracy. Due to the successful launch of the Transportation Network Company (TNC) Registration and Background Check Application, The Gnar Company was hired to design and build the EEC BRC system, which has a number of more complex workflow and integration requirements than the DPU BRC system. It follows a service-oriented architecture and is comprised of the following high-level systems:

BRC Viewer

Automated workflow application for agency compliance officers to review the status and results of an applicant’s background checks, as well as take the following actions and features:

  • Display which applicants’ background checks have passed and which need review.
  • Highlight returned record content to facilitate review by compliance officers.
  • Add comments to applicant's reviews and view BRC history logs, if multiple applications.
  • Send background check results and decisions to the applicant electronically, including a clearance certificate when approved.
  • Enable compliance officers to review, accept, or deny appeal requests, as well as request and review additional materials, and eventually render a decision on the appeal.
  • Generate reports to understand aggregated application process flow, throughput, and denial reasons.

Applicant Portal

Web application that allows for applicants under review to provide supporting documentation.

  • Secure portal that allows applicants that are under BRC review to submit support documentation to facilitate review.
  • Supports secure, encrypted file communication between EEC BRC systems.
  • Provides secure messaging platform between system to support review.

DCF ETL Service

Provides a real-time search interface with DCF’s (Massachusetts dept. of Children and Families) ifamily database. Previously, the legacy search was performed via a nightly batch process. In addition to being constrained by a nightly batch process, the legacy search heuristics were rudimentary and resulted in data quality issues. Our team built a new platform that runs an ETL pipeline against an Oracle database that populates an ElasticSearch index. The ETL pipeline was written in Golang to ensure extremely fast data processing speeds coupled with the type safety and concurrency tooling provided by the language. The new index provides real-time search capabilities using a mature, robust platform (ElasticSearch) that provides advanced search heuristics, result match scoring, powerful indexing and a well architected, modern REST API. We are able to get millisecond level API responses against an index consisting of several million documents.

Program Portal

CRM-like platform that allows child care providers to input new employee information, run background checks, manage hiring status and integrate with 3rd party API’s.

  • Allows providers to import or perform data entry for new and existing employees.
  • Integrates with Viewer API to run background checks and receive results in real-time.
  • Manages hiring workflow for renewals, suitability transfers, resubmissions, etc.
  • Provides real time reporting/roster of all staff listings.
  • Provides a secure service layer API that allows 3rd party data providers access to the data. These can be other MA agencies that need to have data reciprocity to satisfy data sharing compliance to third party providers that have been granted access to BRC data on applicants such as
  • Provides ACL management for provider employees to designate access, provision new users and leverage 3rd party authentication (via Centrify).

Background Check Broker and Integrations

Provides a single unified interface that allows state agencies to create background checks across a wide array of data vendors. In many cases, each vendor has a proprietary API which the broker maps back to. It was architected (and is currently capable) of handling every background check request across every agency within the Commonwealth of MA. The Background Check Broker is capable of querying the following agencies: DCJIS CORI, DCJIS SORI, DCJIS Warrants, NSOR (FBI), SAFIS (FBI), Idemia (Fingerprint Scheduling), DCF iFamily

Data Migration

Portions of the legacy data from the legacy EEC BRC Manager was migrated to the "Viewer" application for history as well as renewal (BRC every three year requirement). There are 500,000+ rows in the legacy system. We worked closely with the EEC legacy data team to build an API for accepting these records along with assisting with the ETL process that shaped the data for the new system.