A Camden, New Jersey-based organization entrusted with administering federal grant programs will pay $1.1 million to settle United State Department of Justice claims that it failed to comply with crucial volunteer background check requirements.
According to NJ.com, Our Lady of Lourdes Health Foundation administered two grant-funded programs through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS is a federal agency that helps support volunteer programs. Lourdes managed grants for the CNCS Senior Corps working with programs involving senior citizens.
One of those programs was the “Foster Grandparent Program,” which places senior volunteers in schools and other community settings to act as mentors (or “grandparents”) to young people. The other was the “Senior Companion Program,” in which senior volunteers were assigned to work with seniors in the community who were struggling with day-to-day tasks. Lourdes administered the programs in Camden from 2012 to 2017.
Under CNCS rules, organizations administering grant programs must conduct criminal history checks on all volunteers before allowing them to serve in the community. Lourdes either did not run the checks or did not keep records of doing so. The oversight allowed 46 volunteers to work with youths and vulnerable adults without any background check reports on file.
Lourdes attempted to hide its missing background checks from CNCS. In 2017, during a CNCS audit, Lourdes “cut-and-pasted” the results of older background checks to try to conceal the lack of checks on newer volunteers. CNCS auditors also found that Lourdes employees had filed false timesheets for some volunteers.
In the wake of the audit, Lourdes agreed to cooperate with CNCS and the Department of Justice as they investigated the issues. As part of that cooperation, Lourdes terminated the employees who had filed false timesheets and conducted background checks on all 46 unscreened volunteers. These background checks found that none of the volunteers had red flags in their backgrounds that would have disqualified them from serving with the Fostered Grandparent Program or the Senior Companion Program.
Lourdes has ceased managing the two grant programs.
The $1.1 million settlement will allow Lourdes to put this scandal behind them without accepting liability for failing to comply with CNCS requirements. However, the cost of the settlement still shines a light on the importance of volunteer background checks—especially when compliance is at stake or vulnerable populations are being served. Legal professionals involved in the case said that, in failing to run background checks, Lourdes put the safety of their clients at risk—even if retroactive background checks proved that the volunteers in question posed no obvious threat.
At backgroundchecks.com, we understand the critical importance of background checks for volunteer organizations for safety and federal compliance. Click here to read our whitepaper on the subject or visit our “Background Checks for Volunteers” page to learn about how our services form the backbone of an effective volunteer screening policy.