News

June 3, 2015

New Bill Seeks to Clarify Child Protection Rules

On Monday, June 8, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Children and Youth Committee will consider House Bill 1276, legislation introduced to address the glitches that have surfaced in the wake of the comprehensive reforms to the state’s Child Protective Services Law (CPSL). It is particularly aimed at organizations with volunteers.

There’s a lot in the bill and much could change as it works its way through the legislature. A preliminary look includes these items that may be of interest to congregations and ministries:

DEFINES “ROUTINE CONTACT” (which was not defined previously) as “regular, repeated and continual contact that is integral to a person’s employment or volunteer responsibilities”.

CHANGES LANGUAGE DESCRIBING PERSONS REQUIRED TO REPORT SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE from “An individual paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child” to “An individual paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, is a person responsible for the child’s welfare”.

CLARIFIES LANGUAGE REGARDING DOCUMENTS by removing the language that implied that an employer or volunteer agency needed to “maintain” the original documents. The language attempts to clarify that a person will “submit” the “required documents” and then the employer/volunteer agency will make and “maintain a copy of the required information.”

CLARIFIES EMPLOYER LIABILITY by stating that an employer may be held criminally liable (a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree) if they fail to ensure the person they are hiring has the background checks before hire “or upon recertification.”

REINFORCES PORTABILITY OF BACKGROUND CHECKS House Bill 1276 will aid in reinforcing that the background checks are portable. In other words if a person has received their background checks for paid work they can use the checks to meet the background check requirements for volunteering. Duplicate checks are not needed when the person is seeking to use the checks for volunteering (either employee-based checks for volunteering or checks completed for one volunteer venture being suitable for another volunteer service opportunity). Individuals who are using their background checks, under this portability provision, will be asked “prior to commencing employment or service” to “swear or affirm in writing” that the person is not disqualified from employment or volunteer service.

REINFORCES EFFECTIVE DATES FOR BACKGROUND CHECKS for when employees and volunteers need background checks and addresses when a youth employee needs background checks.

Employee Effective Date: These individuals will be required to obtain required background checks beginning December 31, 2014 with updated checks required every 36 months. There is some phase in so that current employees with older or less comprehensive checks “no later than December 31, 2015.”

Volunteer Effective Date: Existing volunteers have until July 1, 2016 to comply with these new provisions. New volunteers will be required to obtain required background checks “within one year of the effective date of this section.” All volunteers will require updated checks every 36 months.

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