At the end of 2014 new laws took effect that required all employees and volunteers working with children to receive background checks. (To read PA Act 31 in its entirety, click here). Laws were amended in 2015 that changed the requirement from every three years to every five years and made some of the background checks free for volunteers. If you just began this process in 2014 it is time to think about renewal of these checks.
The laws that came about in 2014 also put into place the new reality that our church volunteers became mandated reporters if they became aware of or suspected abuse or neglect toward a child. If your employees and/or volunteers have not been informed or trained in what this requires now is as good a time as any to make that happen.
Finally, if your congregation does not already have a policy that outlines how children and youth [all members] will be kept safe in your church you should be working on one. If your insurance carrier has not yet required you to do so, they probably will in the near future. Our website has some model policies that will help you get started. Many insurance websites also have resources as does the ELCA website.
Here is a link to a document that helps clarify what volunteers need background checks: http://keepkidssafe.pa.gov/cs/groups/webcontent/documents/document/C_135249.pdf. Further information and links to other resources are available on the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania/ LAMPa website https://www.lutheranadvocacypa.org/issues/child-sexual-abuse-protection/.
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) offers training is approved by the Departments of Human Services, Education and State and meets the requirements under Act 126 and Act 31. If you are interested, you can visit their website.
The new law requires these two background clearances for ALL mandated reporters every 60 months (5 years).
- 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. This is done through IdentoGo. When you seek an appointment for the fingerprinting and to submit your background information, you will need a “Service Code” in order to complete the information.
Volunteer should use the DHS Volunteer Code – 1KG6ZJ [that last letter is a cap J…it is hard to tell next to the Z]
Employees over 14 years of age use Code – 1KG756.
For more information on any of this, click here to find a full listing of the codes and pdf files that will let you know what information you will need when seeking a fingerprint appointment.