December 1, 2014   

This message is forwarded from The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss,
Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach, Pennsylvania Council of Churches regarding changes to the requirements for PA Background Checks:



I was just made aware of some concern and confusion over background checks required under HB 435, which was signed into law on October 22. This legislation requires background checks for anyone who works in direct contact with children and increases the frequency of background checks from every 36 to every 24 months. The question has to do with whether or not clergy are subject to these checks.


Here is what I have learned from Cathleen Palm, director of the Center for Children's Justice (

  • There is no legal mandate for clergy to have checks (in terms of their profession unless they are also a foster parent, adoptive parent, working in a child care agency, etc)
  • If a clergy-person is employed where there is also a church-based child care program then I would have comprehensive checks done given the potential for interaction with children
  • If a clergy-person is a volunteer and they aren't having regular contact with children (remember volunteers are about direct contact which means "routine" and about being responsible for the child(ren) then I think you could say the law might not apply and even if you are doing checks they don't need to be done until July.

In all of this there is how best to know the background of a person and balance child safety with costs, etc.


I would think that any employees that are in regular contact with children (day care workers, Christian educators, etc.) probably should undergo such checks to be on the safe side. It might also be good for clergy that work regularly with children in Sunday school, confirmation classes, etc.-again, to be on the safe side.


Click here for a summary and a Power Point that contain more information about this law and its requirements. 


Hoping this helps.





The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss

Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

900 S. Arlington Avenue, Suite 211A

Harrisburg, PA 17109-5024

717.545.4761; Fax 717.545.4765

Cell 717.350.0165

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