01.24.17

Rep. Schiff Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Children From Predators by Requiring Criminal Background Checks

Washington, DC – Every year, thousands of youth recreation programs are a vulnerable target for child predators who hope to gain access to their next victims under the guise of seeking employment or volunteer opportunities. In as many as 34 states, child-serving organizations do not have reliable access to both state and national FBI fingerprint-based background checks – the gold standard for criminal background checks – because access to the FBI system is often limited, unreasonably time-consuming, or prohibitively expensive. 

The bipartisan Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA), introduced by Rep. Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Bishop (R-MI), will make FBI fingerprint-based background checks permanently and widely available to youth-serving organizations nationwide.  They introduced the legislation with 26 bipartisan co-sponsors.

“When parents send their children to after-school programs, sports camps, or to be with mentors, they must be able to trust that their children are in safe hands,” Rep. Schiff said. “Every organization that serves our youth should have access to the FBI fingerprint-based background check system so they can thoroughly screen anyone who will be working with kids. The results of a multi-year pilot program strongly indicate that this system will be effective in catching child predators who try to avoid detection by moving across state lines.”

“Congress has a duty to ensure every youth-serving organization in America can afford and access the very best background checks on staff and volunteers, and doing so means utilizing the FBI’s gold-standard database,” said Rep. Bishop. “We cannot allow a single bad actor to slip through the cracks when it comes to our children’s safety. Protecting kids was a top priority of mine in the Michigan Senate, and I am proud to continue working with Congressman Schiff on this important effort.”

Currently, many child-serving organizations have the ability to request state background checks on prospective employees and volunteers that will work with children. However, a state background check alone is no match for the FBI’s finger-print based system – the only one capable of performing a nation-wide search and preventing child predators from avoiding detection by moving from state to state.

CPIA builds on the success of the PROTECT Act’s Child Safety Pilot which ran from 2003 until 2011. The pilot provided access to FBI fingerprint background checks for a variety of child-serving non-profits. The pilot conducted over 105,000 background checks and 6.2% of potential volunteers were found to have criminal records of concern – over 6,500 individuals. In addition, over 40% of individuals with criminal records of concern had crimes in states other than where they were applying to volunteer – meaning that only a nationwide check would have flagged these individuals’ criminal records. The criminal offenses among some of these applicants included convictions for criminal sexual conduct with a child, child endangerment, and manslaughter.  

To build on the success of the Child Safety Pilot and make these essential background checks permanently and widely available to youth-serving organizations, we have introduced the Child Protection Improvements Act. The legislation would:

  • Ensure that organizations that serve children, the disabled, and the elderly all across the country have access to FBI fingerprint searches in a timely and affordable manner. 
  • Protect privacy rights by ensuring that the specifics of a criminal record are never disclosed without explicit consent by the volunteer or employee and providing an opportunity for individuals to correct errors in their records.
  • Does NOT authorize any new spending. The program will be supported by the fees assessed for background checks by the requesting nonprofit organizations.
  • Does NOT require organizations to utilize FBI fingerprint background checks, only makes them available to those wishing to utilize them.

An earlier version of this legislation passed the House in 2010 on a 413-4 vote.