Commissioners in Ross County, Ohio Offer to Pay Background Check Expenses for Local 4-H Volunteers

By Michael Klazema on 6/1/2015

A few months ago, the Ohio State University Extension program announced that it was going to begin requiring volunteers with the 4-H program to undergo background checks. The checks, which were implemented in accordance with new university regulations, were expected to cost between $28 and $35 per person. It was a good move in that Ohio State was taking steps to protect children, who spend a good deal of one-on-one time with their adult mentors in the 4-H program. However, some were worried that the financial aspect of the checks would cause hesitation for parents and community members, and would thereby lead to a drop-off in volunteer numbers for local chapters of the nationwide agricultural-focused, leadership-building program.

In at least one Ohio county, though, volunteers with OSU's 4-H extension program won't have to worry about paying for their own background checks. According to the Chillicothee Gazette, a local publication, Ross County commissioners have offered to cover the background checks for every 4-H volunteer in their county. The decision is a somewhat surprising one, since the county is not directly responsible for requiring the background checks. In fact, Ross County is not really directly associated with the OSU Extension program or the 4-H program in any way, other than the fact that some 4-H volunteers live in the area.

However, according to commissioners, this move just felt like one that was necessary to keep volunteer numbers high for the youth-serving 4-H program. After the Chillicothee Gazette published a story detailing the new OSU requirements and how they might deter some volunteers, Ross County's board of commissioners just got together and decided to work with 4-H to "eliminate the associated financial obstacle."

The financial obstacle is merely one part of the new requirements that might scare potential volunteers away. Privacy-minded volunteers might not be willing to submit to a background check at all, and another requirement—one which calls for all 4-H volunteers to take a child abuse awareness class—might make volunteering for 4-H more of a time commitment than many can afford. However, thanks to the generosity of the county commissioners in Ross County, at least parents and community members won't be deterred from volunteering just because of money.

From the sounds of it, the bill for the 4-H volunteer background checks won't be footed by taxpayers, either. Instead, Ross County's commissioners will be paying for the checks out of their own pocket. One commissioner even praised the local 4-H program as "great…if not the best," and said that the commissioners just wanted to show their appreciation for what the program does for youth participants. This particular move certainly is a strong show of appreciation.


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