07.20.10

On Passage of the Child Protection Improvements Act

CONGRESSMAN ADAM B. SCHIFF
OF CALIFORNIA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank Chairman Scott for his leadership on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1469, the Child Protection Improvements Act. I first introduced this legislation in 2007 with my colleague Mike Rogers of Michigan. The Child Protection Improvements Act would ensure that any mentoring organization or child-serving nonprofit will be able to obtain an affordable, fast, and accurate background check of a potential volunteer.

About 25 years ago, I began as a volunteer with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Big Brothers paired me with an extraordinary young man named David. I've always said that I've learned as much or more from David as he ever learned from me. The experience also helped me understand the huge amount of trust we put in volunteers at organizations all around the country. In the vast majority of cases, the trust is well placed; but, unfortunately, there are exceptions.

For that reason, in 2003, Congress created the Child Safety Pilot Program to demonstrate the feasibility of allowing youth-serving nonprofits to access FBI background checks. The FBI maintains a database of criminal histories from every State in the Nation searchable by fingerprint. An FBI search is the gold standard background check, as it cannot be evaded by using a fake name and it will find convictions from every State. I believe the gold standard is what we should strive for when it comes to protecting children who are put in potentially a vulnerable situation.

Since 2003, almost 90,000 background checks have been performed through the pilot. In 94 percent of the cases, the background check returns no serious criminal history. However, in 6 percent of the cases, a record of some kind was found, in some cases an extensive record which the applicant attempted to conceal. In 23 percent of those cases, the applicant gave a name other than the one in their criminal history. Applicants were found with convictions for everything from murder to child abuse to sexual assault; and frequently those convictions were from out of State so that only an FBI background check would have found them.

We have demonstrated that background checks for nonprofits working with children can be conducted quickly, affordably, and accurately. Three times since 2003, Congress has acted to extend the pilot so that thousands of community organizations all over the country don't lose access to background checks for their volunteers. It's time to create a permanent system, one that will protect children while ensuring the civil rights and privacy of volunteers.

Again, I want to thank Chairman Conyers, one of the original cosponsors; Chairman Scott, the chairman of the subcommittee; my colleague, Mike Rogers; and all other Members who have contributed to this effort and urge the Members to vote  “yes.”