– In response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware) was one of many state legislators who voted in favor of a comprehensive package of legislation designed to update Pennsylvania’s child protection laws during the previous legislative session. The laws took effect on Dec. 31, 2014.
, which was part of that package, mandates that all prospective and current adult volunteers who have direct contact with children or who are responsible for the welfare of a child will be required to obtain both criminal background check clearances and child abuse clearances, and to have those clearances recertified every three years.
“Volunteers make an enormous contribution to our schools, churches, scouting troops, camps and other community-based programs; without them, our children would lose many of the most beloved elements of their childhood,” Barrar said. “However, the children’s safety is always our foremost concern, and we must do all we can to ensure that they are safe when in the care of adults who are coaching, teaching and mentoring them.”
This law does not apply to infrequent or non-routine volunteers, nor does it go into effect until July 1. Schools can continue to work with volunteers as they have in the past for their prom and sports activities this school year.
Volunteers for all organizations will need to comply with increased background clearances beginning on July 1. Non-citizen volunteers will serve on a provisional basis not to exceed 30 days if the volunteer complies with the clearance standards.
If an existing volunteer has already obtained the required clearances prior to July 1, those clearances will be valid for three years from the time he or she was most recently certified. If an existing volunteer’s clearances are more than three years old, or if he or she never obtained clearances but will now be required to get them, he or she has until July 1, 2016, to obtain them.
Some organizations incur the cost for the clearances, while others ask the volunteers to pay. The fees are: child abuse clearance, $10; state police criminal background check clearance, $10; and FBI clearance, $30.
Volunteers who have resided in the Commonwealth continuously for at least the past 10 years will be required to obtain only the state police criminal background check and the child abuse clearance. In addition to these two clearances, volunteers residing in Pennsylvania for less than 10 years would also need to obtain an FBI criminal background check.
Act 153 was the last remaining piece of the landmark Child Protection Legislative Package. Its provisions are based on recommendations of the Task Force on Child Protection, which former Gov. Tom Corbett convened in 2012. In all, more than 20 bills have been signed into law to better protect the children of Pennsylvania and to provide more tools for effective prosecution of offenders.
Please visit KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov
, a website launched by the Department of Human Services, for basic information on recognizing and reporting child abuse, changes to the Child Protective Services Law and online ChildLine clearances with links to the applicable background check clearances and requirements.
The Department of Human Services will soon been issuing guidelines to further clear up any ambiguity, and further definitions of the law will be posted on KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov as they are available.
Anyone with suspicions that a child is being abused should call the department’s statewide ChildLine hotline at 1-800-932-0313.
Representative Stephen E. Barrar
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Evans