Beginning in 2015, Pennsylvania congregations will be required to make sweeping changes to how we retain, recruit and screen employees and volunteers who work with children as a result of new state laws passed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal. To read PA Act 31 in its entirety, click here.
LAMPa also has some helpful resources available, including samples of the required “swear and affirm” statement.
There is now an official disclosure form for volunteers to use.
Further resources from the ELCA can be found here.
Please Note: There have been changes in the dates by which background checks must be completed for volunteers:
New volunteers coming on board at July 1, 2015 need to have the checks completed before 7/1/2015. This means that if you have someone who has NEVER been a volunteer in your congregation that will be helping with your VBS or any activity with children after July 1, 2015 they must complete the background checks before being involved in volunteer activity.
Existing volunteers with older background checks or no existing background checks have until 7/1/2016. This is assuming that if they have already been involved with children and youth activities, that is they are a known person to the congregation, you now have until July 1, 2016 to complete the background checks.
The new laws expand the definition of “mandatory reporters” to include all rostered leaders, paid church employees who work with children, and also volunteers over age 18 who work with children in activities and programs. For churches this means ALL Sunday school teachers, nursery attendants, VBS volunteers, youth group leaders, etc.
Mandatory reporters are those who, when they have reasonable suspicion of child abuse, are required to call the state ChildLine. The new law puts the burden on each mandatory reporter to notify state authorities. They are required to follow up with a written report. Willful failure to report is punishable by law.
To help train your mandatory reporters, here is a flyer that describes and provides a link to a free online three-hour course for mandatory reporters. Developed by University of Pittsburgh, the Department of Public Welfare, Office of Children, Youth and Families, the Pennsylvania Children and Youth Administrators, the course covers how to recognize and report suspected child abuse. Registration is required. Participants can then print out a certificate signifying their completion of the course.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) was awarded the State funds to provide free, face-to-face training for Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse in PA. The training is approved by the Departments of Human Services, Education and State and meets the requirements under Act 126 and Act 31. They plan to waive the refundable deposit if churches are willing to host the training as an “open session” – which basically means that the hosting church would allow other local church staff/volunteers to attend. Sign-ups would occur through their website so the hosting churches don’t have to deal with that. They will create a flyer specifically for each open session that the church can use to promote that particular training with area churches. Download a sample flyer: flyer-1, flyer-2. If you are interested, you can visit their website or email or call Haven Evans, their Director of Training, at 717-238-0937.
The new law requires these two background clearances for ALL mandated reporters every 36 months.
- Child Abuse History Clearance Form (CY-113) – Obtained from the Department of Human Services. Click here for online access.
- Pennsylvania State Police Request for Criminal Record Check Form (SP4-164). Click here for online access.
FBI Fingerprint Record Checks are additionally required for all employees (including rostered leaders) and for any volunteers who have not lived in PA for 10 years. The new laws give volunteers until July 1, 2015 to obtain the background checks. Paid employees are required to submit the background checks after Dec. 31, 2014. Click here for online access.