Background Check

The Pennsylvania Legislature enacted a new law in October 2014 (Act 153) called the PA Child Protective Services Law in response to the Sandusky/ Penn State/ Archdiocese of Philadelphia child abuse scandals of the last few years.  The law was amended in July 2015 to clarify various ambiguities, extend deadlines, and also waive certain compliance fees.  The following is a simple Question and Answer (Q&A) format designed to tell you everything you need to know about this new law and what Troop 1 is doing to assure compliance.


What is the new law all about?  

Without going into too much detail, the law requires that adults who supervise or interact with minors in a host of regulated situations, such as schoolteachers and other educational employees, day care workers, adoptive and foster parents, and anyone who broadly qualifies as a “volunteer” have to undergo periodicbackground checks and submit the results of those background checks to the persons in charge of the organizations in which the adults will come into contact with minors.  The definition of “volunteer” includes all Boy Scout leaders and many if not most parents.  Anyone not obtaining and submitting a required background check, and anyone who does obtain abackground check but it shows that the person was found to have violated certain laws in the past, is disqualified from being around minors in an employment or volunteer capacity.  In addition, the law requires that all volunteers 18 years of age or older – whether registered or not – who suspect or witness child abuse must report that situation immediately. 


I am only a parent of a boy in Troop 1.  Do I have to comply?  

As noted above, all Boy Scout leaders have to comply.  If you are not a leader but are only a parent, you technically do not have to go through the process but, in that situation, Troop 1 will be obligated to severely limit your involvement in Troop activities.  For example, you will not be able to: (i) drive boys other than your own son to and from any activities where the Troop asks parents to act as chauffeurs or to carpool (Note:  In Troop 1, this is pretty much every camping trip or outing that we sponsor); (ii) attend Troop 1 organized camping trips or other outings where you might be called upon to supervise or have interaction with boys other than your own son; (iii) routinely attend and have involvement in Troop meetings where boys are present; etc.  As a result, Troop 1 has adopted the policy that it is requesting all parents of boys in the Troop to go through the background check process.  This will make it simpler to assure full compliance and spare the embarrassment of having to ask a parent to leave an event or a Troop meeting, go home instead of driving, etc.

When I was younger, I had a few minor brushes with the law.  Am I disqualified from working with and being around minors?  

The answer is it depends on what happened, but most likely not.  There are three broad disqualifying circumstances:

·      Conviction at any time of certain very serious crimes, like murder, rape, aggravated assault, stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, incest, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, prostitution, possession of child pornography, etc.  There is no time frame past which such a conviction is no longer disqualifying.  These are lifetime disqualifications.

·      Conviction of a drug offense under the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.  However, this only disqualifies if the conviction was in the last 5 years and was a felony.  Therefore, a conviction long ago – as a youth, for example – and a conviction of something less than a felony – like a misdemeanor or a juvenile conviction (which is technically a “delinquency” conviction and is not considered to be a criminal conviction at all) – is not disqualifying under the law.

·      Being named in the statewide database maintained by the Department of Human Services (DHS) as the “perpetrator of a founded report committed within the five-year period immediately preceding verification” pertaining to child abuse.  Basically, a “founded report” means that there has been a judicial determination that a child who is a subject of the report has been abused by the adult.  This can include criminal convictions but it can also be a determination made by a court in a non-criminal matter, such as when the DHS steps in and places a child into foster care with court approval that child abuse has occurred.  However, a “founded report” does not include mere unsubstantiated allegations, such as may happen in an acrimonious divorce.  Also, as with drug convictions, if the “founded report” is older than 5 years, it is not disqualifying under the law.


What do I have to do to comply?  

Basically, go to the Cradle of Liberty (COL) Council’s web site on the new law and follow its instructions for what you need to do to comply.  That web site can be found at: http://www.colbsa.org/news-and-information/news-and-information/pa-child-protective-services-law.html  More specifically, on the COL Council’s web site you will find links to take you to two governmental web sites where you will be able to obtain (i) a Report of Criminal History from the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), and (ii) a Child Abuse History Clearance from the Department of Human Services.  Both of these reports are now free as you will be applying as a “volunteer,” but please remember to save a copy of the reports as PDFs to your computer as you will need to send them electronically to both the COL Council and Troop 1 afterward to verify your status.  On the COL Council’s web site there is a link to a third report that you will also need, which is a fingerprint based FBI criminal history clearance submitted through the Department of Human Services.  Unfortunately, this costs $27.50 and will require the physical act of getting fingerprinted, so it cannot be done entirely online.  However, the COL Council further links to a document called a Disclosure Statement for Volunteers that you can submit instead of having to get the fingerprint based FBI report if you have lived in Pennsylvania continuously for the past 10 years (this does not need to be at the same address) and you can truthfully attest to all of the statements contained in that document (which are, basically, that you have not been convicted of any of the disqualifying offenses described above).  Unfortunately, you cannot sign the Disclosure Statement for Volunteers electronically, so you will need to print it out, sign and date it, and then have it converted to a PDF.  If you have a scanner, you can do this at home.  Otherwise, stores like Kinkos offer this service.


I have all of the necessary documents.  To whom do I send them? 

 Although the COL Council only requests that the three documents be uploaded and sent to it electronically, for which it also provides a separate link on its web site, based on certain language in the law that appears to make them separately responsible for compliance, Troop 1 along with its sponsoring entity, the Abington Presbyterian Church (APC), have determined that they also need to be furnished with copies of the three documents.  To that end, Troop 1 and the APC have partnered to establish the following procedure to expedite receiving the documents, having them screened for compliance, and then safeguarding the documents in a manner so that everybody’s privacy will be assured:

1.    First, send all three documents electronically to the link contained in the COL Council’s web site as per the instructions from the Council.

2.    Second, and preferably simultaneously, send an additional electronic copy of all three documents to the following email address:  troop1.youthprotection@gmail.com  This email address has been specially set up by Troop 1 and the APC to receive electronic copies of the documents and is only accessible by Troop 1 leaders John Dean and Allen Tsung, who are the only individuals who will have access to the documents.  Mr. Dean and Mr. Tsung are also members of the APC, which assures continuity with our sponsor.

3.    When you send your email with the documents to the Troop’s email address above, include in your email a statement that you have also sent electronic copies of the documents to the COL Council.  Troop 1 and APC need to know this to respond to any inquiries from the COL Council about the status or whereabouts of your documents.

4.    As the documents are received by email at the address listed above, Mr. Dean and Mr. Tsung will review them to assure compliance.  You will hear nothing further if everything is compliant.  You will only hear back from the Troop and/or the APC if there is some problem either with your failing to comply with the established procedure or if there is information contained in any of the documents that could be problematic.

5.    Once all of the documents are screened in this manner, to preserve privacy they will be placed in a separate and sealed envelope and will be stored in the APC’s safe along with other documents separately obtained by the APC for its other volunteers, like Sunday School teachers, etc.  The documents will only be accessed if it becomes necessary to confirm compliance with the law or some other issue or question arises.


When do I have to complete this by?  

Troop 1 and the APC are asking all Scout leaders and parents to complete the entire process outlined above no later than September 30, 2015.  Although you will find some longer deadlines listed on the COL Council’s web site, Troop 1 and the APC want to make sure that everyone is in compliance well before the law actually requires it.  We hope to avoid any issues or problems in this manner.  The sole exception is if you are a new parent with the Troop and have never acted as a volunteer with Troop 1 in the past (this excludes most of our existing parents, who have previously acted as volunteers at one time or another in the past).  In that situation, technically the compliance date is August 25, 2015, but this only applies if you are actually acting as a volunteer which can be avoided by simply excluding you for a few weeks from the type of involvement that would require you to comply.  If you think you fall into this category, please ask one of the Scout leaders for further instructions but, basically, you are asked to go through the process and submit your documentation as soon as possible.


I have already gone through this process at work or with another volunteer organization that I am involved with.  Do I have to do this again? 

 You may not need to re-order background checks if you already have them, but some employers and volunteer organizations are using a different Disclosure Statement for Volunteers than the particular version linked on the COL Council’s web site so you should make certain that you only use and submit that particular form for Troop 1 purposes.  Also, as the background checks always need to be current and there are different expiration dates for documents that may have been obtained through other organizations in the past, you may be required to obtain newbackground checks for Troop 1 and the APC’s purposes even if you already have older checks for some other purpose.  John Dean and Allen Tsung will be screening for these issues as well.  In case there is any doubt, see one of the Scout leaders to discuss this in advance.  In all events, the mere fact that you may have gone through this process once already for a different organization does not mean that you can avoid sending all three of your current backgroundcheck documents to both the COL Council and Troop 1/ the APC using the procedures described above.  You will still have to do that, as each volunteer organization is separately responsible for assuring compliance by volunteers within its own organization.  Therefore, if you did not save copies of the documents that you previously submitted to an employer or a different volunteer organization, you will have to retrieve electronic versions of those documents from your employer or the different volunteer organization to send them to the COL Council and Troop 1/ the APC at this time.  If this proves too difficult or complicated (as, for example, if your employer resists releasing your documents, even back to yourself), it may be easier just to log on and obtain new versions of the same background check documents and to fill out the COL Council’s prescribed Disclosure Statement for Volunteers from scratch.  Once again, contact one of the Scout leaders if you have any questions or problems.

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