Effective December 31, 2014, Pennsylvania amended the state's Child Protective Services Law and declared every "emergency medical services provider certified by the Department of Health," all individuals who "accept responsibility for a child," and all others who may have "direct contact with children" to be mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse. 23 Pa.C.S. ? 6311. Under the changes to the Child Protective Services Law, all mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse must obtain criminal background checks and child abuse clearances. The amendments to the Child Protective Services Law require all prospective and current adults working in a paid or unpaid capacity "who have direct contact with children or who are responsible for the welfare of a child" (under 18 years of age) as well as all EMS providers (regardless of whether they are paid or unpaid) and other paid personnel to obtain both criminal background check and child abuse clearances once every 36 months. 23 Pa.C.S. ? 6344.4(1)(i).
"Direct contact with Children" is defined in the Child Protective Services Law as "the care, supervision, guidance or control of children, or routine interaction with children".
23 Pa.C.S. ? 6303.
These background checks are required for adults and are conducted to determine if a volunteer or employee has been convicted of any serious felonies or sex crimes, or has been identified as a perpetrator in a substantiated case of child abuse. 23 Pa.C.S. ? 6344(c)(2). Also, any convictions of a drug offense within the past five years will also disqualify an individual from serving as a volunteer who works with children. 23 Pa.C.S. ? 6344(c)(3).
While the vast majority of the new changes took effect on December 31, 2014, the Department of Human Services has issued guidance indicating that starting July 1, 2015, volunteer firefighters who have contact with children and emergency medical personnel:
A. who have resided in the Commonwealth continuously for at least the past 10 years will be required to obtain a Pennsylvania State Police criminal background check clearance (criminal history), as well as a Child Abuse History Clearance from the Department of Human Services.
B. who have resided in the Commonwealth for less than 10 years will be required to obtain a Pennsylvania State Police criminal background check clearance (criminal history), a Child Abuse History Clearance from the Department of Human Services, and an FBI criminal background check clearance, which includes fingerprinting .
Paid emergency medical personnel and paid firefighters who have direct contact with children are required to obtain a Pennsylvania State Police criminal background clearance (criminal history), a Child Abuse History Clearance from the Department of Human Services, and an FBI criminal background clearance. This requirement for paid personnel took effect on December 31, 2014.
Volunteers will have until July 1, 2015 to produce the required clearances for the organizations for whom they volunteer. (Employees who had direct contact with children or EMS employees are already required to have these clearances.) The volunteers and employees must produce originals of the clearances to the agencies for which they work or volunteer and the agency must make and retain a copy of these clearances. Once the clearances are obtained, they will need to be renewed (i.e., new, updated clearances will need to be obtained and given to the agency) every 36 months. Any newvolunteer or employee must have the clearances before beginning volunteer or paid service.
Any person who has obtained the required clearances may transfer or provide services to another subsidiary or branch established and supervised by the same organization, or serve in a volunteer capacity for any program, service or activity, during the length of time the person's certification is current (within 36 month timeframe). 23 Pa.C.S. ? 6344.3(f)(1). Any employee who begins employment with a new agency, institution, organization or other entity that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or control of children shall be required to obtain a new certification of compliance. 23 Pa.C.S. ? 6344.3(f)(2).
The following questions are provided to assist the volunteer and paid fire, emergency medical and rescue services to clarify application of the law as it relates to volunteer and paid EMS providers, and volunteer and paid firefighters with "direct contact with children".
1. Are you an emergency medical services provider who is certified by the Department of Health?
2. Are you a paid firefighter who has direct contact with children?
3. As a member of a volunteer organization are you responsible for the supervision, guidance or control of junior members, children or have routine daily interaction with children?
a. Determining whether a volunteer if responsible for the welfare of a child means that the volunteer is acting in lieu of or on behalf of a parent.
b. Do you have direct contact with children and are you responsible for safety of that child as your primary consideration?
c. Do you have direct contact (routine interaction, that is regular, ongoing contact) that is integral to your volunteer responsibilities?
If you answered yes to any of the items above, you must obtain the appropriate clearances.
All fire and emergency medical service organizations must establish a written policy that requires all emergency medical services personnel to obtain the required clearances and explicitly identifies other paid and volunteer personnel responsible for "direct contact with children." It is recommended that every organization consult with their legal counsel, municipality, and insurer when developing such policies.
The Child Abuse, PSP and FBI clearances can be applied and paid for electronically. The FBI clearance also requires a fingerprint submission. How much do clearances cost?
a. The PSP Criminal Record Check costs $10.
b. The Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance costs $10.
c. The FBI Criminal Background Check costs $27.50 through the Department of Human Services.
d. The FBI Criminal Background Check costs $28.75 through the Department of Education.
Your organization must determine who pays for the cost of the required clearances. Some agencies may choose to pay for clearances for their staff members or have the staff member pay the costs. Agencies can pay for child abuse history clearances by registering for a Business Partner user account by using the "Organization Account Access" link on the Child Welfare portal,www.compass.stat.pa.us/cwis. The business account will allow organizations to purchase child abuse history clearance payment codes to be distributed to applicants or employees. Individual applicants or employees will then go onto the child welfare portal and apply for the clearance using the code. The code can only be used once and allows the organization to have access to the applicant's child abuse history clearance results once those results are processed.
If the organization responsible for employment decisions or the administrator of a program, activity or service has a reasonable belief that an employee or volunteer was arrested or convicted for an offense that would constitute grounds for denying employment or participation in a program, activity or service under this chapter, or was named as perpetrator in a founded or indicated report, or the employee or volunteer has provided notice as required under this section, the person responsible for employment decisions or administrator of a program, activity or service shall immediately require the employee or volunteer to submit current information for a background investigation. The cost of the investigation shall be borne by the employing entity or program, activity or service.
If a volunteer or paid staff member is arrested for or convicted of an offense that would constitute grounds for denying participation, the volunteer or paid staff member must provide written notice no later than 72 hours after the arrest, conviction or notification that the person has been listed as a perpetrator in the statewide database. A volunteer who willfully fails to disclose information as required above commits a misdemeanor of the third degree and shall be subject to discipline up to and including termination or denial of a volunteer or paid position.
Copies of all clearances shall be maintained by the agency, are confidential and may not be released to other individuals. For more information, reference the Child Protective Services Law Chapter 63 at:http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/23/00.063..HTM or go to the Department of Human Services website at: www.dhs.state.pa.us