Peacock Tales • Fall 2015

Volunteers and Child Abuse Clearances:  An Update

As the year 2014 drew to a close, volunteers, schools, churches and other organizations across the Commonwealth sprang into action in response to changes to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law which required, for the first time, that volunteers provide clearances as a condition of working with children.

During the summer of 2015, volunteers and their supervisors tuned in once again as the legislature further revised the Child Protective Services Law. At first glance, many believed that this round of revisions, signed into law by Governor Wolf on July 1, 2015, drastically reduced volunteers’ obligations with respect to providing clearances. However, in order to better understand what has, and has not changed, a closer look at several key developments is required.

The Child Protective Services Lawunderstand what has, and has not changed, a closer look at several key developments is required.The Child Protective Services Law continues to require that volunteers, age eighteen or older, who meet the statutorily prescribed threshold of contact with children, must provide a Pennsylvania State Police criminal history an FBI criminal history, and a Department of Human Services child abuse clearance to the person in charge of volunteer selection within the entity. The requisite level of contact with children has been revised to include “direct volunteer contact,” which is defined as the care, supervision, guidance or control and regular and repeated contact with children, which is integral to the volunteer responsibilities at issue.

However, if the “direct volunteer contact” standard is not met, the statute continues to require that clearances be provided by any individual who provides permanent or temporary care, supervision, mental health diagnosis or treatment, training, or control of or to a child, in lieu of parental care, supervision and control.

The Child Protective Services Law continues to allow entities the discretion to accept a volunteer’s affidavit certifying that he or she is not disqualified from service under the statute, in lieu of the FBI clearance, if the individual has resided in the Commonwealth for the entire ten-year period prior to submission of the affidavit. In addition, individuals who do not meet the ten-year residency requirement can now qualify to submit the affidavit if they provide an acceptable FBI clearance obtained at any time since establishing residency in Pennsylvania.

As was previously the case, entities may still permit an individual who does not reside in Pennsylvania to volunteer without the required clearances on a provisional basis for thirty days, provided that the volunteer is in compliance with the clearance requirements of the jurisdiction in which he or she is domiciled. The updated statute clarifies the time period as thirty days within a calendar year, and requires the volunteer to submit documentation of proof of compliance.

Entities served by volunteers are still permitted to impose stricter requirements than those set forth in the Child Protective Services Law.

New time frames for submission of initial and updated clearances are also in effect. However, there is some difference of opinion among Pennsylvania attorneys regarding the interpretation of these time frames as set forth under the Child Protective Services Law and within the guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Contact a Peacock Keller lawyer for more information.

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