New Bill Seeks to Make FBI Background Checks More Affordable for Youth Organizations

By Michael Klazema on 12/4/2014

When a sex offender or violent criminal slips through the cracks and is hired to a position working with children, we often blame the employer. We wonder if the company that hired these dangerous individuals did their due diligence in running background checks. And if they did run background checks, we wonder if those screenings were as thorough and in-depth as they could have been. In many cases, checks were run, but only on a local or statewide basis. If past offenses were committed outside of the state, they go undetected.

The question then becomes this: what is the solution to this problem? The logical answer is nationwide background checks. Employers who run their background screenings through the FBI criminal and sex offender databases have a much better chance of weeding out dangerous applicants before they are hired. The problem is that these types of FBI checks are not always affordable, especially for smaller organizations or for companies that subsist largely on volunteers.

Now, however, legislation is pending that could change all of that. The bill in question is called the Child Protections Improvement Act, and it would make FBI background checks more affordable ($25 or less, to be specific) for youth-serving organizations around the country. The bill would also seek to improve the accessibility of the FBI criminal database, create a system where youth organizations could run FBI and state checks at the same time, and make it possible for applicants to obtain background check reports about themselves and contest any inaccurate information.

All of this sounds remarkably positive for the youth-serving organizations that would be affected. It would provide a means to keep kids safer without forcing organizations to drain their bank accounts. Furthermore, the bill would provide a financial solution without forcing volunteers or employees to pay for their own checks, which is the policy that many organizations have adopted in order to finance FBI background checks. It goes without saying that such policies prevent certain people from ever pursuing employment or volunteer positions with these youth organizations.

Perhaps the biggest question mark about the Child Protections Improvement Act, though, is how it would solve the long turnaround time problem that already plagues FBI checks. Even now, with more expensive fees, it can take weeks for an FBI background check to clear. And since many job searchers don't have time to wait around for a month or two to see if they have been cleared for employment, organizations end up losing quality candidates.

The Child Protections Improvement Act says that is supposed to provide access to timely and inexpensive nationwide background checks, but it is unclear how the bill could possibly make good on the timely part of that promise.After all, if FBI checks are less expensive, then more organizations will use them.This would in turn bring about greater gridlock in the background check system, and would only add to the FBI's existing backlog. In other words, checks might be made cheaper by this legislation, but unless there is a plan to seriously overhaul the system, they would take longer as well.


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