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Pennsylvania State Background checks for volunteers: PA Act 153 of 2014:
Requiring Comprehensive Criminal and Child Abuse Background Checks

Dear Scouters,

As you may or may not be aware, PA Act 153 of 2014 went into effect January 1, 2015. This law will have a direct impact on paid employees working with children and unpaid adult volunteers in Pennsylvania, including those involved in Scouting. This law requires that every person responsible for the welfare of youth obtain and keep on file, comprehensive and regularly updated criminal and child abuse background checks. This new PA law is applicable to any person “responsible for the welfare of a child or having direct contact with children.” The Child Protective Services Law defines “direct contact with children” as “the care, supervision, guidance, or control of children or routine interaction with children.”

This new law affects 21 Boy Scout Councils in Pennsylvania. French Creek Council has been monitoring this legislation and has been working with the other councils and our National legal Counsel.  Due to the wording of the law and the way the Boy Scouts of America is organized, there are a number of areas open to interpretation. Like many of you, we have a very long list of questions and clarifications related to this law that we are seeking answers to. We, and every Council in Pennsylvania, are working on getting these questions answered so that we can provide the best information and directions possible to you. In the meantime, we felt it important to communicate with you what we do know at this point.

While many community-based programs like Scouting, schools, youth sports programs, and religious organizations have long required background checks for volunteers, Pennsylvania law now provides very specific directives on the timing and type of checks required. The background checks performed by the Boy Scouts of America, because they are done through a third party service, do not meet the requirements as outlined in this new law.

Going forward, PA law now requires that volunteers, who meet any of the conditions mentioned in the first paragraph, obtain the following background checks and clearances (these must be completed every three years):

  1. PA State Police Criminal History Record Check State Police background
  2. PA Child Abuse Clearance Department of Child Services background check.
  3. Fingerprint-Based FBI Criminal History Record Check ($27.50 fee)
    1. Certain volunteers (those living in PA consistently for the last ten years) can be exempted from the FBI Criminal History Check by submitting in writing a disclaimer statement

Background checks and clearances will have to be obtained according to the following schedule:

  1. Beginning July 1, 2015, any new volunteer must submit clearances prior to beginning service.
  2. By the Scout units annual re-charter time, currently registered volunteers previously not required to obtain clearances must submit clearances to council office along with their annual re-charter paperwork.

Again, the purpose of this letter is to inform you of what we know so far. We will provide further communications once we have our questions answered and can provide a clear, concise set of directions as to exactly what a volunteer will need to do and how to do it. Please wait until we are in communication before having the volunteers in your unit obtain any of the checks and clearances discussed above.

A great link to keep on hand is website has lots of information on the law and the clearances.

All adults holding leadership positions (supervising kids: which includes parents attending camp as these adults will have significant contact with other youth outside of their child) must have the ACT 153 clearances which include State Police background, and Department of Child Services background check. These clearances are good for 60 months from the date of the individual clearance. A fingerprinting clearance (if you have NOT lived in the State of PA for more than 10 years) is also required. You can register for the fingerprinting here.  A signed affidavit must be completed if you have lived more than 10 years in PA and that form can be found on Disclosure Form PA Act 153 of 2014

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Scout Executive Duane Havard

Updated 9/14/15