Little League or School Volunteer this Spring? You Might Need a Background Check
It’s almost sign up time for Little League and plans are being made for school activities for the Spring. If you are a parent who hopes to be involved in these activities with your son or daughter, you might be surprised when the organizer asks you for your PA State Police Criminal Record Check and Child Abuse History Clearance. Don’t be.
The law changed in Pennsylvania last year, as a result of a package of nearly two dozen new laws that updates the Commonwealth’s response to the Sandusky child abuse scandal and child abuse and child sexual abuse horror stories that seem to appear weekly in the newspaper and on the evening news, school employees and youth activities volunteers are now required to get background checks. The laws will improve our state’s ability to recognize, report, investigate and prosecute child abuse, to hold known abusers accountable, and to make it easier to keep our children safe by discouraging known abusers from having regular contact with children who could become their next victims.
School employees are subject to stringent laws relating to background clearances and reporting child abuse, but volunteers are required to follow some of the new laws as well. By July 15, 2015, any adult who volunteers for a position that is responsible for the welfare of a child or children or who has direct contact with children, is required to obtain a Report of Criminal History from the Pennsylvania State Police and a Child Abuse Clearance from the Department of Human Services. Each clearance costs $10.00.
If you are a new resident of Pennsylvania (or have lived outside the state in the last ten years) or if you will be paid in your position, you will also need an FBI clearance (submitted through the State Police). That clearance will costs $27.50 through the Department of Human Services or $28.75 through the Department of Education.
It is the responsibility of the person in the organization who accepts the volunteer to get and keep copies of the required clearances, and if that is you, a failure to do so is a crime. The clearances are good for 36 months.
A lawyer can help your organization know what the requirements are, and how to comply with them. Help is also available at KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov, a government-run website that has lists of “Frequently Asked Questions,” to help volunteers, youth organizations, and schools get familiar with the new rules.
Are the new laws and the required child abuse background checks an inconvenience and an expense to an organization that needs volunteers, and also to the volunteers that provide the hours and hours of practice time, game time, and everything that makes it run? Yes, but the purpose is to keep all of our children safe, and that makes it worth it.
–By Kate Harper, Esq.