New Bill Would Give Youth Organizations Access to Federal Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 8/5/2013

United States Senator Charles Schumer is introducing a bipartisan bill that is designed to improve youth organizations’ ability to conduct thorough background checks on volunteers and employees who will be working with kids.

The proposed legislation, known as The Child Protection Improvements and Electronic Life and Safety Security Systems Act of 2013, would give youth organizations the ability to perform FBI background checks on staff and volunteers.

Under current federal law, not-for-profit childcare organizations like summer camps and day care providers are not permitted to conduct federal criminal background checks through the FBI. Instead, most youth organizations rely on state-based background checks, which typically involve their local police checking names against the state’s criminal database.

State-based background checks leave youth organizations and children vulnerable because they do not detect federal crimes or crimes committed in other states. In explaining the proposed legislation, Senator Schumer said that conducting national background checks could prevent predators from skipping from state to state in search of new opportunities to abuse kids. He cited the case of Daryl Vonneida, a man who was able to access and abuse kids for over 40 years by volunteering as a baseball coach, soccer coach, and church worker. Schumer said he believed that a “quick, thorough national background check” might have revealed Vonneida’s 1989 conviction for first-degree sex abuse and prevented youth organizations from accepting him as a coach and volunteer.

Of course, youth groups do have other options besides state-based background checks already. For example, they could use a national background check tool such as US OneSEARCH from to vet potential volunteers and/or employees. US OneSEARCH compares a given name and date of birth against a collection of over 450 million public criminal records taken from state and local databases across the country to provide a robust portrait of an individual’s criminal history. It also includes a search of Offender Registries to reveal individuals who have committed sex or other vilolent crimes which forced them to register. For even more protection, employers could use US AliasSEARCH, which adds a Social Security number trace to the criminal background check process. The trace reveals known aliases, so that those names can also be run through US OneSEARCH.

Under the proposed legislation, youth organizations would be permitted to have their local police departments fingerprint volunteers or employees. The prints could then be used to conduct a federal criminal background check through the FBI. The youth organizations would have to foot the bill for this service.

So far, youth organizations have responded positively to the proposed legislation. The Catholic Diocese of Rochester, which is involved in the management of several local youth organizations, said that it already conducts background checks but welcomes any new resources that would improve its ability to protect children from predators.

Of course, the bill only offers the opportunity to perform a federal criminal background check, with no way of forcing youth organizations to take advantage of this opportunity. Ultimately, hiring decisions will continue to be made at the discretion of local youth organizations and the new legislation will only be effective insofar as those organizations choose to embrace it.


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