Volunteers are critical contributors to the success of many organizations, particularly schools and youth athletic organizations. Many community efforts hinge on the availability of motivated volunteers. A litany of criminal incidents in many locations involving non-employee workers has put a new focus on the need to vet volunteers. Increasingly, municipalities and other organizations recognize it is not enough to accept any individual who arrives with a desire to contribute. Not only are there legal liabilities to consider, but more importantly, there is a duty for these organizations to avoid the potentially devastating impact of a volunteer's abusive behavior or criminal activity.
While volunteers in school functions may often be parents, new procedures place them on equal footing with teachers, especially in roles that involve unsupervised interaction with children. According to WRCBtv, the school board of Hamilton County in Tennessee recently moved to implement background checks for volunteers and short-term employees on contracts, in line with a new state-level rule. These efforts do not cover volunteers who work alongside other vetted adults, such as a parent visiting their child's classroom for an activity.
In Maryland, the board for Charles County Public Schools reached a similar decision, implementing a system they hope will boost accountability and create clear records. Volunteer tutors, chaperones, and PTO officers will need to register with the school district, confirm applicable training, and submit to background checks. The latter includes a search of Maryland's criminal databases, similar to the state-level reports created by backgroundchecks.com.
Proper vetting for volunteers has found its place outside of education, too. When disaster strikes, FEMA can rely on local individuals for help in the form of Community Emergency Response Teams. However, it is important for CERT team members to not only possess the right type of training for emergency response but also to not pose a risk to others. CERT now requires completed background checks for all prospective members, along with verification of training, to ensure the creation of a safe and responsible team. Rather than something implemented in reaction to a tragedy, these policies exist as a proactive application of best practices.
"Who are we working with?" is a question important for any effort that relies on a mixture of paid staff and outside assistance. backgroundchecks.com is well-equipped to support volunteer organizations through tailored screening solutions that adapt and scale to meet unique needs. By bringing volunteers into the fold and vetting them like regular staff members, organizations of all kinds can cultivate peace of mind. As legislation in this area evolves, the importance of developing and implementing screening procedures is likely to continue its growth.