Jun. 18, 2015

HARRISBURG – The state House on Wednesday passed legislation that aims to more clearly define who is subject to the requirements enacted under Pennsylvania’s child protection laws and, where possible, make those requirements less onerous for adult volunteers who work with children, Rep. James R. Santora (R-Delaware) said.

“Last session, a comprehensive legislative package intended to better protect our kids from sexual and physical abuse passed into law,” Santora, a member of the House Children and Youth Committee, said. “These laws represented a major improvement in how Pennsylvania protects its children, but they were not perfect. As my colleagues and I talked with volunteer organizations and parents about the unintended consequences these laws were creating, it became clear that the Legislature needed to readdress several provisions to strike a better balance between protecting children and not overburdening volunteers in such a way that we lose both volunteers and programs that are beneficial to children. I believe House Bill 1276 accomplishes that goal.”

House Bill 1276 aims to clarify the types of volunteers and employees who are required to obtain background checks to work with children. Under the bill, only volunteers and employees with direct and routine interaction with a child as part of a child care service, a school, or a program, activity or service would need to obtain the clearances.

For example, a Sunday school teacher and Scout leader would need the clearances, while a cook at a youth camp, a parent dropping off baked goods at a school or a guest reader/performer would not.

The $10 fees for both the Department of Human Services child abuse clearances and the $10 Pennsylvania State Police criminal background check would be waived for all volunteers, which the administration has already taken steps to implement. The fees would be reduced to $8 for employees, under further administrative action.

In addition, the legislation would also permit employers or organizations to accept non-original copies of the required documents on file, rather than the original copies needing to be maintained by the employer or organization.

“As a legislator and a father, my most important responsibility is protecting kids,” Santora said. “House Bill 1276 would ensure that we have the right laws in place to do just that, while clearing up some of the confusion and reducing some of the costs associated with the initial laws.”

Santora said that while he agrees with the overall legislation, he has concerns with two amendments that were added to the bill: one would exempt from background check requirements college and university employees, and the other would exempt adults who hold a paid position with an employer that participates in an internship, externship, work-study, co-op or similar program with a school. Both exemptions apply only if the adults interact with children ages 16 and older.

“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to remove these amendments, which effectively eliminate important protections against potential abuse that were included in the original laws,” Santora said.

House Bill 1276 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Representative James R. Santora
163rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jonathan Anzur
RepSantora.com / Facebook.com/RepSantora