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Dinniman, Committee Pass Bill to Revise Child Protection Law, Promote Volunteerism
WEST CHESTER (June 26) – State Senator Andy Dinniman and the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee today unanimously passed House Bill 1276, legislation that addresses the concerns raised by volunteers who work with children regarding increased background checks under the new Child Protective Services Law.
“The safety of all children is paramount, but it is important that we revisit and revise the law to resolve some unintended consequences that would have had a detrimental impact on volunteerism,” he said. “House Bill 1276 addresses these concerns in a way that protects our kids, while preventing over burdensome requirements from deterring volunteers.”
Dinniman said that following the passage of the new Child Protective Service Law (Act 153 of 2014), he has heard from many residents, school districts, childcare associations, religious groups, colleges and universities, and nonprofit organizations concerned about the increased and broader background checks for all adult volunteers working with children.
Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, volunteers working with children are required to obtain more extensive background checks including the Child Abuse History Clearance, issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the Criminal History Record Check, issued by the Pennsylvania State Police. In addition, those who have not been continuous residents of the Commonwealth for the last 10 years require FBI clearance.
Dinniman said he is confident that House Bill 1276 will be passed by June 30.
House Bill 1276 more clearly defines and narrows who is subject to the required background checks and makes them less onerous while ensuring adequate protections remain in place.
The bill calls for:
- Improving and clarifying the definition of “direct contact” to mean (that a background check is required for) an individual who provides care, supervision, guidance or control of children and has routine interaction with children. The current law uses the word “or” instead of “and.” Changing the definition will significantly narrow the number of individuals who require background checks.
- Adding the definition for the term “routine interaction” as “a regular, repeated and continual contact that is integral to a person’s employment or volunteer responsibilities.”
- Permitting volunteers who are Pennsylvania residents, but have not resided in the Commonwealth for the entirety of the previous 10-year period to obtain the required FBI criminal background check only once upon establishing residency. The current law requires those individuals to obtain an FBI background check clearance every three years until they reach 10 consecutive years of residency in Pennsylvania.
- Exempting minor employees (ages 14 to 17) from obtaining the FBI criminal history background check if the minor has been a resident of the Commonwealth for previous 10-year period and the minor’s legal guardian affirms that the minor is not disqualified from serving in the position under the list of prohibited offenses in the previous law.
- Making the portability or transferability of the background check clearances applicable to employees who are employed in more than one paid position in which they work directly with children, just as those clearances are portable/transferable for volunteers volunteering for multiple organizations under law. The current law requires employees to obtain separate sets of clearances for each paid position they hold.
“I want to thank my colleagues on the Public Health and Welfare Committee for their work on this legislation,” Dinniman said. “We were able to sit down with all the stakeholders, including our institutions of higher education, to strike a better balance in protecting kids and promoting volunteerism.”
In addition, Governor Wolf recently announced that beginning July 25 fees for child abuse clearances and criminal background checks required under the Child Protective Service Law will be waived for volunteers working with children.
Persons seeking employment for work with children and others required under the law will still be assessed fees for the clearances, but at a reduced cost of $8 each. For those who have not been a continuous resident of the Commonwealth for the last 10 years, FBI clearances and costs may still apply.
More information about clearances required under the Child Protective Services Law can be found at www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov. Individuals seeking clearances can go directly to www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis to create an individual account and apply for their child abuse clearance electronically.
Tagged with: Senator Andy Dinniman