Recently an article about doing background checks on volunteers caught my eye. Not because it was poorly written, but because I paused for a second and thought about the state of affairs, and what they’ve become. The author was wondering whether volunteer background checks should be conducted on everyone lending a hand at the local school. Of course it’s a great question, and there are a number of points to consider. But first…
I’ve run into people who are all for making sure everyone involved in their daily life is put through a “Sherlock Holmes” before so much as looking at them. On the other hand, there are those who quite honestly couldn’t give a crap about background checks and think qualifications should decide who gets the job or does the volunteering. I’ve been involved in such matters for the better part of quite some time, and am beginning to wonder whether everyone is going off the deep end.
Of course the screening companies want your money, and you want to be safe, but it’s all worthless unless the proper steps are taken. And remember; don’t every rely only on a screening report your printer spits out. You can take some additional steps when checking up on that volunteer.
The very first and simplest step is to check the national sex offender registry. The FBI hosts a page with sex offender information from all fifty states. It’s comprehensive and is kept updated with the latest criminal data. There really is no need to pay for a sex offender search unless it’s part of package. Then someone is going to the trouble of looking up the information for you. Just make sure you’re not being charged too much.
You can also ask around with the other parents to make sure at least one person, ideally a few, knows the volunteer. If nobody has any clue who the individual is, take a second look. Ask where they’re from and why they want to volunteer. Strike up a conversation and get to know the person; you could even ask them about doing a criminal background check and see how he/she responds. It would take a pretty cool cucumber not to have some kind of reaction if they are at all guilty.
Of course you should also do the old Google search and see if there’s any other information available. Also try Twitter, LinkedIn, and of course Facebook. However, don’t be surprised if you don’t find anything. Many people are becoming paranoid of the internet and social media and avoiding these venues like the plague. After all, if you can get fired for posting a picture on Facebook of something you did 10 years ago, there’s reason to worry.
You might also do a criminal background check using a consumer company such as USSearch or Intelius, in open records states, but you would need to know where the volunteer has lived. A number of the states allow access to all violations from the most minor of traffic tickets to full blown felonies. You can check which ones when selecting which type of background check to get. Nobody would ever know and it’s certainly cheap enough. Of course I can’t recommend this to you for legal reasons.
If you’re going the FCRA compliant route, I would recommend the following procedure to start with:
- Obtain a social security number and signed consent from the volunteer.
- Run an address verification search through one of the three credit bureaus. They are the ones with the most up to date addresses for almost everyone. Such a search is available from any professional screening service.
- Once you have the address history, do a national criminal search to see if it catches anything. It searches for criminal and county court records, correctional facility records, and sex offender, terrorist and most wanted criminal records. You might be surprised. However, do NOT rely only on this search as there is simply too high a margin of error.
- Make sure you order an on-site county records search for EACH county where the volunteer has lived. This is the best and most thorough method for doing a complete background check.
- When you have all this information and found the person’s record is clean, you’ve done about all you can as far as criminal records are concerned to ensure they’re fit to work with children.
You have my two cents, and now it’s up to you if you want to take the time and trouble to check up on each volunteer. Be warned, it can be quite costly, but either do the job right or NOT AT ALL. On the one hand it might be a colossal waste of time only because they’re clean, but on the other, you might be saving a life.
Categories: Volunteer Screening