Newly passed legislation will help afterschool programs ensure program safety

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Newly passed legislation will help afterschool programs ensure program safety

While it did not make any headlines, one important piece of legislation tucked into the FY2018 Omnibus Spending bill that passed last month was the Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA). CPIA is common sense, bipartisan legislation that attempts to close gaps in access to FBI fingerprint background checks for organizations serving children (like afterschool and summer learning providers) who wish to use the voluntary system to screen prospective staff and volunteers. The legislation has been considered in Congress for almost 10 years and the passage last month could be helpful for a wide variety of youth serving organizations.

FBI fingerprint-based background checks are a critical component of a comprehensive background check process, yet one-third of states do not allow their youth serving organizations to access these FBI checks through their states’ system. Thousands of organizations across the country serving children and other vulnerable populations are affected by this lack of access.

CPIA provides information to organizations to enable discussion and informed decision-making about potential volunteers and staff wishing to work with vulnerable populations. No organization would be required or mandated to utilize these FBI fingerprint checks under CPIA – it is purely voluntary.

What does CPIA do?

The Child Protection Improvements Act amends the National Child Protection Act of 1993 to establish a permanent program that provides access to national FBI criminal history background checks. The bill:

  1. Establishes a program at the Department of Justice to provide access to national criminal history checks for individuals seeking employment or volunteer opportunities with afterschool, mentoring, summer camp, and other programs.
  2. Creates a process for organizations serving “vulnerable populations” (children, elderly, individuals with disabilities) to submit a request for a national criminal history background check on, and criminal history review of, individuals seeking employment or volunteer opportunities via the CPIA program run out of DOJ.
  3. Ensures that individuals subject to the fingerprint background checks are entitled to obtain a copy of their background check report and are provided instructions to appeal the results and challenge the accuracy or completeness of the report. In cases where a background report lacks disposition data, additional research via state and local recordkeeping will be completed to provide the most complete information possible.
  4. Ensures compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the enforcement guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  5. Ensures that the fee for conducting FBI fingerprint background checks does not exceed the actual cost of the background check.
  6. Ensures that background check fees do not discourage volunteers from participating in programs to care for vulnerable populations (some nonprofit organizations ask volunteers to cover the expense of their background screening process).
  7. Ensures that the national system is fully implemented one year after enactment.

 CPIS was supported by a wide range of national youth serving organizations including the Afterschool Alliance, American Camp Association, MENTOR, and the YMCA of the USA. The next step for the Child Protection Improvements Act will be an implementation process that likely will start with the Department of Justice proposing guidelines on how the program will operate. Look for additional information on this process soon.

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