The Screening Process
Criminal Background Checks
Start by assessing how much access and contact an applicant will have with children in their desired position. Some states require that all volunteers who could potentially work with children go through a criminal background check. However, it is best to conduct these checks regardless of whether or not it is required by law in your state.
There are several options available for conducting criminal background checks. Using the same process already in place for background checking full-time paid employees helps avoid confusion and can streamline the screening process. Another way to begin conducting a criminal background check is to contact the local police department and follow their recommended instructions since processes can vary throughout each state. The cost of the background check will differ by state; some states waive fees for non-profits.
Remember that it is a legal requirement to have an applicant’s permission before conducting a criminal background check. Once this is completed, the applicant’s information can be passed to the police department and they can conduct the check.
Criminal background checks, however, are not a foolproof method for screening potential child abusers, since they only discover individuals with prior criminal activity. This does not lessen the importance of intensive screenings and background checks. Checks will always be important for discovering those with prior convictions and provide strong evidence against allegations of negligence in screening volunteers.
National Sex Offender Public Registry
A search on the National Sex Offender Public Registry is a quick and cost-free step that identifies any applicants registered as a sex offender. It searches every state’s sex offender registry and provides a photo and details on prior offenses.
Family Watchdog is a third-part service that taps into the NSOPW.gov database and provides a map view of all registered sex offenders in an area. Family Watchdog is free, but supported by advertisements.
Third Party Organizations
In addition to government-sponsored options, several third party organizations specialize exclusively in performing background checks for a fee. These checks are typically very thorough and utilize numerous databases from local, national, and federal sources to check for any type of previous criminal activity. Some of these services will perform this service at a discount or possibly cost-free for non-profit organizations. It is still mandatory to have the individual’s consent before conducting a third party background check.