Pennsylvania House Bill 1276 amends and clarifies the state’s law that deals with background clearances for employees and volunteers who have direct and routine contact with children. The bill amends several sections of Title 23 (Domestic Relations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes that relate to child protection services. We will focus on the amendments affecting certifications for employment and volunteer positions that involve direct contact with children.
Pennsylvania law (§ 6344) requires certain employees and volunteers to obtain certification whenever their job or duties involve direct contact with children. The certification requirement has been amended to apply to the following individuals or entities (plus foster and adoptive parent provisions that are outside the scope of this update):
- An employee of child-care services;
- A self-employed provider of child-care services in a family child-care home;
- An individual 14 years of age or older who is applying for or holding a paid position as an employee with a program, activity, or service, as a person responsible for a child’s welfare or having direct contact with children;
- Any individual seeking to provide child-care services under contract with a child-care facility or program;
- Certain school employees, including those not governed by the Public School Code of 1949;
- Minors between 14 and 17 years of age who apply for or hold a paid position as an employee who is a person responsible for the child’s welfare or a person with direct contact with children through a program, activity or service prior to the commencement of employment or relating to recertification;
- Individuals aged 18 or above who live in a home where someone has applied for a certificate of compliance or a license to provide child day care in the home; and
- Volunteers if they have direct volunteer contact, meaning they have care, supervision, guidance, or control AND routine interaction with children.
To obtain certification, individuals must submit the following information before commencing employment or having direct contact with children (§ 6344(b)(1)-(3)):
- A report of criminal history record information from the state police or a statement from the state policy that their central repository contains no information relating to that person;
- A certification from the department as to whether the applicant is named in the statewide database as an alleged perpetrator in a pending child abuse investigation or as a perpetrator of a founded report or an indicated report; and
- A report of federal criminal history record information, including a full set of fingerprints for the purpose of a record check to the state police and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for verification of identity of the applicant and for obtaining a current record of any criminal arrests and convictions.
Non-resident volunteers must provide the employer, administrator, supervisor, or another person responsible for the selection of volunteers with documentation of certification by another jurisdiction.
Changes in the law were made to the certification and recertification requirements. Effective December 31, 2014, employees and volunteers are required to obtain re-certifications every five years instead of every three years from the date of the person’s oldest certification. If an employee’s current certification is older than five years, the employee must be recertified by December 31, 2015. Employees without a certification or who were not previously required to have a certification are now required to obtain background certification no later than December 31, 2015. New prospective employees must obtain certification before starting employment.
If a volunteer’s current certification is older than five years, the volunteer must obtain certification by August 25, 2015. Volunteers without a certification or who were previously not required to have a certification must obtain certification no later than July 1, 2016. Volunteer certifications cannot be used for employment purposes.
The requirement for a volunteer to submit a report of federal criminal history record information, including a full set of fingerprints (§6433(b)(3)), may be waived for volunteers who apply for an unpaid position. The individual must have been a resident of the Commonwealth during the entire previous 10-year period. Or, if not a resident of the Commonwealth during that time period, the individual must have received certification at any time since establishing residency in the Commonwealth, and provide a copy to the employer.
An exception for volunteer certification may be made if the individual: swears or affirms in writing that he or she is not disqualified from service or has not been convicted of an offense deemed to be grounds for denying employment or participation in a program, activity or service; is currently enrolled in a school; is not responsible for the child’s welfare; and is volunteering for an event that occurs on school grounds and is sponsored by the school in which the individual is enrolled as a student, and the event is not for children who are in the care of a child-care service.
For minors between the ages of 14 and 17, the individuals must submit the certification information, except for the fingerprints for a state police and FBI record check when certain other conditions apply.
Fees for certain background certifications may be waived for volunteers if the individual swears and affirms in writing that the background certification is necessary to satisfy the background certification requirements, he or she has not received background certifications free of charge within the previous 57 months, and the volunteer understands that the certifications will not be valid or used for any other purpose. An employer, administrator, supervisor, or other person responsible for the selection of volunteers are presumed to have acted in good faith when identifying individuals required to submit certifications and maintain records as required by law.
House Bill 1276 also includes provisions for the portability of the background certification. If an individual’s employment certifications are current and he or she completes an affirmation, the individual may use the certifications to apply for employment and serve as an employee, and to apply for and to serve as a volunteer. Before starting employment or service, the individual must swear or affirm in writing that he or she has not been disqualified from employment or service or has not been named in the statewide database as a perpetrator of a founded report committed within the preceding five-year period, and has not been convicted of a criminal offense that is considered grounds for denying employment or participation in a program, activity, or service (§ 6344.(c)).
- Determine if you have employees or volunteers in Pennsylvania that work with children.
- You must ensure that background certifications are complete on existing employees by December 31, 2015.
- You must ensure that background certifications are completed on new prospective employees before employment begins.
- You must ensure that background certifications are complete for all new volunteers by August 25, 2015. The certification deadline for existing volunteers is July 1, 2016.
You can review House Bill 1276 here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=
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