The Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law was amended effective July 1, 2015 (Act 15 of 2015). This law is applicable to all youth serving organizations in Pennsylvania. Council volunteers, registered and unregistered, may be affected in two ways: 1) more individuals are now mandated child abuse reporters; and 2) more persons are required to provide background check clearances. Please review this information and take the required action.
All BSA-registered volunteers, and all other persons over the age of 18 who are volunteering to assist a BSA unit or at a BSA function and who, while volunteering 1) provide care, supervision, training guidance or control of a youth member in lieu of parental control; and/or 2) have regular and repeated contact (referred to in the law as “routine interaction”) with youth members, are now mandated reporters of child abuse.
The law requires direct reporting from the individual suspecting or witnessing child abuse immediately. After reporting the suspected abuse to the state the individual shall contact the Scout executive. The Commonwealth has created a portal for reporting purposes: www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis or 800-932-0313.
Who is required to comply with the new Pennsylvania law?
A. Registered Leaders
At present, all registered direct contact leaders (Cubmasters, Assistant Cubmasters, Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters, Tiger, Den or Webelos Leaders, Assistant Tiger, Den or Webelos Leaders, Crew Advisors, Assistant Crew Advisors, Post Advisors, Assistant Post Advisors) are required to submit background check clearances and renew these clearances every 60 months.
All other unit volunteers, depending on the individual’s role in carrying out the responsibilities of the position with their unit, may or may not be required under Act 15 to submit all required clearances. At present, the council is strongly recommending that ALL registered unit-level volunteers should obtain and submit all required clearances. Although not yet adopted by Executive Board, there is a substantial likelihood the council will soon mandate that all registered volunteers do so.
B. Non-Registered Volunteers
This category includes parents, relatives, friends, and community leaders who might help out units on occasion or who might volunteer at an event. The mere fact that such a person does not go through the formal BSA registration process does not mean that the law is not applicable to him/her. Rather, any person over the age of 18 who 1) provides care, supervision, training or control of a youth member in lieu of parental control; and/or 2) has regular and repeated contact with youth members that is integral to the volunteer activities (referred to in the law as “routine interaction”) is still required to submit the clearances.
Because of the potential breadth of persons this category could cover, defining who must submit clearances is more complex and remains somewhat unsettled. On July 1, 2015, representatives of the Council met with the Secretary of Human Services (DHS) and his top deputy responsible for implementation of the child protective laws. In response to inquiries relating to Scouting-specific scenarios, we received informal guidance as to how the DHS interprets the laws. To date, these views have not been reduced to writing or to regulations. In most of the categories discussed, the Council is in agreement with DHS guidance. In some situations, though, we believe that the informal guidance is not consistent with the actual law. We are continuing to work on this issue to further refine when non-registered adults will need the required clearances. Based on our discussions and the guidance provide, we believe that the following are clear:
There are some areas where we feel uncertainty remains. Here are several categories where DHS believes that clearances are required, but we believe are not yet settled.
For additional discussion as to why we believe that DHS’s informal guidance should be revisited in order to obtain greater clarity on these three specific areas, please visit Scout Executive Ron Gardner’s blog post on this topic.
C. Whose responsibility is it to ensure background check clearances are obtained?
It is the responsibility of the unit committee chair and chartered organization representative to ensure that compliance is handled before the volunteer service begins. At the district level it is the responsibility of the district chair and district executive. At the council level it is the responsibility of the council president and the Scout executive. Moreover, a new volunteer will not be registered until the council has evidence of compliance.
A. Volunteers must provide the following clearances
B. What is the cost for the clearances?
C. How long does it take the Commonwealth to process the clearances?
Some of the clearances come back within a few minutes, however, some may take as long as several weeks.
D. Timeline to provide the clearances
Volunteers must submit copies of their required documents to the Juniata Valley Council. This may be done in person at the Council Service Center, by fax, scanned in an email, or submitted through the rechartering process. Email copies should be sent to Angela Kaler at Angela.email@example.com. Clearances obtained for other volunteer or employment organizations may be submitted if they are current and meet the guidelines.