New PA Law Requires Criminal Background Checks for Children and Youth Workers
Maybe you haven’t yet heard about Pennsylvania’s Act 153 of 2014, but this new state law may significantly impact the way your organization screens employees and volunteers working with youth.
Effective December 31, 2014, Pennsylvania law states that all Pennsylvania employers are required to obtain, for all employees and volunteers working in direct contact with children and/or youth, extensive Criminal Background checks (1) before hire and (2) every 36 months after that. The three levels of checks now required by the Act are:
- Criminal History Record obtained from the PA State Police ($10 fee)
- Child Abuse Clearance obtained through the PA Department of Human Services ($10 fee)
- Federal Criminal History Record obtained by submission to PA State Police or FBI ($28.75 fee)
The PA Department of Human Services has a helpful section for how to obtain the relevant clearances through the various agencies. Please note that your insurance company may have recommended vendors available for #1 & #2 but that the FBI Criminal Background Check must be done through the CogentID site. If you are a client of Sovereign and curious as to if your insurance carrier has recommended vendors please contact your service representative.
The law also clarifies and expands the definition of “mandatory reporter”. People in the following positions are defined as mandatory reporters:
- Clergy members, including ministers and other spiritual leaders.
- Any individual, paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of that individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled service, activity or program, accepts responsibility for a child. This includes individuals serving at youth camps or programs, sports or athletic programs, outreach programs, enrichment programs, troops, clubs and similar organizations.
- Mandatory reports must make an immediate and direct report of suspected child abuse to ChildLine either at www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis or by calling 1-800-932-0313. After making the report to ChildLine, the reporter is required to immediately notify the person in charge (or their designated agent) of the institution, facility, school or agency.
Training & Hiring
- Training: Beginning November 14, 2014 all EXISTING mandated reporters are required to participate in a 3 hour Mandated Reporter Training. Online training can be done at either www.reportabusepa.pitt.edu or the PA Family Support Alliance. This is required to be completed by June 2015.
- Hiring: Employers are not allowed to hire or approve an applicant if their criminal history record information indicates the applicant has been convicted of a felony offense within the five year period immediately preceding verification.
Quick Facts about the Act include:
- Exceptions for religious organizations no longer apply.
- Requirement for prospective employees took effect on 12/31/14. Requirement for prospective volunteers takes effect on 7/1/15.
- The federal check may be waived for volunteers who “swear or affirm” in writing that they have resided in PA for 10+ years and have never been convicted of any crime.
- For now, the Act does not provide a timeline for current employees who were previously not required to have clearances.
- Administrators who fail to comply with the Act can be fined up to $2,500.
For further reading:
- Act 153 Fact Sheet from The Center for Children’s Justice. Includes a helpful table on pages 4 and 5 explaining how and when the Act affects your organization’s procedures.
- Summary of House Bill from the PA House of Representatives. This document outlines stricter Abuse Reporting Procedures that are also dictated by the Act.
- Link to the Full Bill on the PA General Assembly website for comprehensive research on the Act’s requirements, penalties, etc.