More comprehensive resources are currently in development, but here are some initial clarifications on the new laws:
Who is included in the background check requirements?
Not all adults in the church require background checks. The Diocese recommends that the following individuals be screened, upon the start of their positions (either volunteer or paid):
- Youth group leaders
- Regular, consistent volunteers who are involved with youth and children (i.e, adults who are not primary teacher, but are regularly involved in youth group or Sunday school activities)
- Adults who serve as chaperones on overnight events, retreats, or trips (i.e. pilgrimages, mission trips, etc.)
- Sunday school teachers
- Children's choir directors (or directors of children in adult choirs)
- Adult acolyte leaders
- Teachers in a parish pre-school or day school
In addition, we recommend that every adult who, in their position, has the potential to be alone with a child, should undergo appropriate checks. Note that if the adult is an occasional volunteer (i.e. once a month, one or two special events, etc.), they are not included in the law.
When must background checks be implemented?
All employees and volunteers new to their positions must undergo these background checks. The law is unclear as to whether or not current volunteers and employees are included in this law. We suggest that all parishes begin by running checks on all employees who work with children and youth, as they are covered by this law effective December 31, 2014. Once all employees have been screened, then we suggest parishes move on to volunteers. Starting July 1, all volunteers must be screened every 36 months.
Further questions and answers are available on a FAQ page at www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov. We encourage you to visit the page and look through the answers included in the FAQ.
Further Diocesan resources, including complete checklists and guides for parishes and literature for your church are currently in development. These materials will be sent to parishes as they become available.
All Clergy are encouraged to attend one of two upcoming Clergy Day gatherings, where we will cover new Diocesan policies and procedures on child protection in detail. These events will take place on April 22nd at Trinity Church, Solebury and May 13th at Trinity Church, Swarthmore. You can learn more about Clergy Day and register for the event on the DIOPA website.
If you have any other questions about these laws, don't hesitate to contact one of us:
Thank you for working with us to protect children, youth, and families in the state of Pennsylvania!