Schiff Introduces Legislation to Make Background Checks for Volunteers Working with Children Reliable and Accessible

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Thursday, March 12, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

Schiff Introduces Legislation to Make Background Checks for Volunteers Working with Children Reliable and Accessible

WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) today introduced legislation to create a nationally-accessible background check system for youth-serving organizations.  The Child Protection Improvements Act of 2009, builds on a highly successful pilot program to ensure that youth serving groups such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Boys and Girls Clubs can perform quick, accurate, and affordable background checks on prospective volunteers or employees.  The bill is being introduced with Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Mike Rogers (R-MI) as original cosponsors.

“We are fortunate to live in a country where millions of volunteers generously make time to participate in community service,” said Schiff, a former national Board Member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.  “But with so many volunteers working with children we need to ensure that child predators are not preying on innocent children through the guise of volunteerism.  Children’s safety is paramount, and we need to make certain that those working with our youth have been thoroughly and properly screened.”

The pre-existing Child Safety Pilot program performed over 37,000 fingerprint-based Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks from 2003 to 2008.  In 6.1 percent of cases, over 2000 individuals, potential volunteers were found to have a criminal record of concern, including very serious crimes such as sexual abuse of minors, assault, murder, and major drug offenses.  The Child Safety Pilot program screened a single individual with felony convictions in 5 states and multiple aliases.  Were it not for access to fingerprint based checks, this individual may have had direct and unsupervised access to a child and the mentoring organization would have had no idea of their background.  In many cases, only a fingerprint based national background check could reveal these criminal histories.

The legislation introduced today is the product of extended negotiations with many concerned parties to create a program that protects children while remaining affordable for small non-profit mentoring organizations.  The bill includes significant protections for the privacy of volunteers to ensure that volunteers’ criminal histories are kept private.  The individual applying to volunteer will have the opportunity to correct any errors or misstatements in his or her record. 

More specifically the Child Protection Improvements Act will:                

  • Create universal access to nationwide background searches, by establishing a criminal background check designee to process background checks on prospective employees and volunteers for youth-serving organizations;
  • Create “one-stop” functionality where a local organization could elect to obtain both a state and FBI search through the central clearinghouse;
  • Keep the fee as low as possible for non-profit organizations, no more than the actual cost; and
  • Ensures that individuals that are subject to background checks can request their full criminal histories and challenge their accuracy and completeness, and receive a prompt response from the jurisdiction holding the records.