Jun. 17, 2015

HARRISBURG – To address the confusion for employees and volunteers who work directly with children, Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) has voted in favor of legislation to more clearly define the types of personnel who must obtain criminal background checks and child abuse clearances, as required by a new state law.

“Many volunteers and employers have contacted my office with questions about whether or not their organizations must obtain the clearances and have been concerned with the overall cost,” Oberlander said. “This legislation addresses both of those situations, by more clearly outlining who needs to be checked and waiving the two state fees for volunteers, while making other provisions that will be more practical to the real world.”

On Wednesday, House Bill 1276 passed the House, with the goal of more clearly defining who is and who is not subject to the background check requirements and, where possible, making the requirements less onerous for adult volunteers. Specifically, only those 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 need to obtain the clearances.

Act 153 of 2014 requires additional and periodic background checks for both employees and volunteers who are directly involved with children: state police criminal background checks and Department of Human Services (DHS) child abuse clearances, costing $10 each. In addition, FBI background checks are required for all affected employees and adult volunteers who have lived in Pennsylvania for fewer than 10 continuous years.

The law never intended to include infrequent volunteers or employees to the background checks, such as parents who drop off baked goods at schools, volunteers for annual youth field days or sports boosters running concession stands.

“With this legislation, we are seeking to correctly address the needs of those adults who should have background checks because they are in regular and routine contact with children and those who only spend a couple of minutes with them at a check-in station or softball game,” Oberlander said. “We owe our children the best protection possible, while also ensuring we have sufficient volunteers to run so many valuable programs and activities.”

Subsequently, volunteers will not have to pay the $10 fees for the DHS child abuse clearances and state police criminal background checks. On June 10, the administration waived the fees for volunteers only, effective July 25. The administration is also reducing the clearances to $8 each for affected employees.

The measure also allows employee clearances to apply for any additional paid position the employee holds, a portability measure already in place for volunteers.

In addition, employers and organizations are permitted to keep non-original copies of the required documents on file, rather than the originals.

The legislation now awaits consideration by the Senate.

Only new volunteers must obtain the clearances by July 1, 2015, while existing volunteers or volunteers never before required to obtain them have until July 1, 2016, to secure the clearances.

More information is available at KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov.

Representative Donna Oberlander
63rd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
RepOberlander.com / Facebook.com/RepOberlander