2014 may have just started, but in Delaware, a law review group is already operating on an end-of-the-year deadline. The group in question, dubbed the Delaware Criminal Background and Child Protection Registry Checks Task Force, was created through an executive order from Governor Jack Markell and will be led by Jennifer Ranji, the state’s Secretary of the Department of Services for Children Youth and Their Families. Governor Markell issued the executive order – “Executive Order 42,” to be exact – in an effort to learn more about the laws, rules, and regulations Delaware currently has in place to protect children from people who would do them harm.
According to a news post on the State of Delaware website, the Executive Order 42 task force will take a deep dive into Delaware’s law books, initiating a full-scale review of the state’s policies regarding background checks for professionals and volunteers who work closely with children, from teachers to sports coaches. Governor Markell, in instituting the executive order, expressed a worry that the background check rules for different branches of Delaware’s childcare sector were inconsistent and in need of some clarification or overhaul. Depending on what the Registry Checks Task Force finds this year, Delaware could see new background check legislation in the pipeline as soon as 2015.
In addition to Ranji, the Delaware Criminal Background and Child Protection Registry Checks Task Force will be made up of representatives from a variety of state departments, including the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Office of Management and Budget, and the State Senate (both Republican and Democrat members). In addition, various legal specialists, community organization representatives, and members of state law enforcement will be on hand to comment on the feasibility of proposed background check laws.
The specific considerations that the task force will investigate over the coming months are sprawling and broad, though they all will obviously relate back to background screening and the childcare industry in some way. For instance, the task force will be asked to answer questions about which jobs should require background checks, about how different background check procedures will be paid for, and about what sort of offenses background checks should look for so as to best protect children.
Ideally, the state would like to adopt a background check system that would allow employers to easily check for criminals, sex offenders, and child abusers. The system the state is looking for isn’t so different from backgroundchecks.com’s US OneSEARCH and US Offender OneSEARCH, services that launch instant nationwide screenings of criminal histories and sex offender registries, respectively.
Other questions the task force will consider include whether or not criminal background checks should be required for employees who work at schools during holiday break periods – such as summer camp employees – and whether or not state background check regulations should extend to private schools not owned or operated by the state government. How these questions and others will be answered – and what the answers will mean for Delaware legislators and educators – remains to be seen. However, the task force has until the end of 2014 to answer such questions, come up with a list of potential laws and regulations, and submit those recommendations to Governor Markell and his General Assembly.