New PA Law Requires Criminal Background Checks
Maybe you haven't yet heard about Pennsylvania's Act 153 of 2014, but this new state law may significantly impact the way your organization screens employees and volunteers working with youth.
Effective December 31, 2014, Pennsylvania law states that all Pennsylvania employers are required to obtain, for all employees and volunteers working in direct contact with children and/or youth, extensive Criminal Background checks (1) before hire and (2) every 36 months after that. The three levels of checks now required by the Act are:
- Criminal History Record obtained from the PA State Police ($8 fee for employees, free for volunteers*)
- Child Abuse Clearance obtained through the PA Department of Human Services ($8 fee for employees, free for volunteers*)
- Federal Criminal History Record obtained by submission to PA State Police or FBI ($28.75 fee)
The law also clarifies and expands the definition of “mandated reporter”. Adults in the following positions are defined as mandatory reporters:
- A person licensed or certified to practice in any health-related field under the jurisdiction of the Department of State.
- A medical examiner, coroner, or funeral director.
- An employee of a health care facility or provider licensed by the Department of Health, who is engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of individuals.
- A school employee.
- An employee of a child-care service who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
- A clergyman, priest, rabbi, minister, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer or spiritual leader of any regularly established church or other religious organization.
- 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.
- An employee of a social services agency who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
- A peace officer or law enforcement official.
- An emergency medical services provider certified by the Department of Health.
- An employee of a public library who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
- An individual supervised or managed by a person listed above, who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
- An independent contractor who has direct contact with children.
- An attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, organization or other entity, including a school or regularly established religious organization that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or control of children.
- A foster parent.
- Mandated reporters must make an immediate and direct report of suspected child abuse to ChildLine either at www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis or by calling 1-800-932-0313. After making the report to ChildLine, the reporter is required to immediately notify the person in charge (or their designated agent) of the institution, facility, school or agency.
Training & Hiring
- Training: Various requirements exist for Mandated Reporters - for a detailed information concerning training we'd encourage you to review the section on the state sponsored site - Training for Mandated Reporters. Online training can be done at either www.reportabusepa.pitt.edu or the PA Family Support Alliance.
- Hiring: Employers are not allowed to hire or approve an applicant if their criminal history record information indicates the applicant has been convicted of a felony offense within the five year period immediately preceding verification.
Quick Facts about the Act include:
- Exceptions for religious organizations no longer apply.
- Requirement for prospective employees took effect on 12/31/14. Requirement for prospective volunteers takes effect on 7/1/15.
- The federal check may be waived for volunteers who “swear or affirm” in writing that they have resided in PA for 10+ years and have never been convicted of any crime.
- For now, the Act does not provide a timeline for current employees who were previously not required to have clearances.
- Administrators who fail to comply with the Act can be fined up to $2,500.
For further reading:
- Act 153 Fact Sheet from The Center for Children's Justice. Includes a helpful table on pages 4 and 5 explaining how and when the Act affects your organization's procedures.
- keepkidssafe.pa.gov is a new website sponsored by Pennsylvania that contains detailed and relevant information on all child protection laws in PA. The site includes information on training for mandated reporters, relevant forms, clearances, laws, supporting documentation, and frequently asked questions.
- Summary of House Bill from the PA House of Representatives. This document outlines stricter Abuse Reporting Procedures that are also dictated by the Act.
- Link to the Full Bill on the PA General Assembly website for comprehensive research on the Act's requirements, penalties, etc.
- Press Release from Governor Wolf on Cost of Checks. On June 10, 2015 Governor Wolf reduced the costs for the state checks and child abuse clearances.
Although we are specialty insurance brokers we are not attorneys. By making your organization aware of this new law we are providing a value-added service - but that is all we're allowed by law and regulation to do. We're not permitted to interpret the law or advise with respect to compliance. If you need help interpreting this law, we urge you to speak with legal counsel.
*Note: this post was updated after additional information was obtained from the new state sponsored site, keepkidssafe.pa.gov. It was also updated again on June 11, 2015 after Governor Wolf announced the new costs associated with the checks - please note that these don't take effect until July 25, 2015.