PA Volunteer Background Checks
In 2015, two laws that impact how volunteers obtain clearances were implemented. The first law, PA Act 153, was signed by Governor Tom Corbett in 2014 and in force as of December 31, 2014. The second law, PA Act 15 of 2015, was signed by Governor Tom Wolf and in force on August 25, 2015 (superseding portions of PA Act 153).
As with any youth organization in Pennsylvania, the law has a direct impact on Scouting volunteers as it requires them to obtain background clearances to volunteer with our council. It is important to note that while the Boy Scouts of America conducts background checks on its own because they are performed by a third party service, they do not meet the requirements as prescribed in the law.
What clearances are needed?
Depending on the individual, volunteers in our council may be required to obtain between two and three clearances. The three clearances are as follows:
Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Background Check
All volunteers needing clearances under the law shall be required to obtain a criminal background check run by the Pennsylvania State Police. (No need to register, just click on the yellow box.)
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Child Abuse Clearance
All volunteers needing clearances under the law shall be required to obtain a child abuse clearance from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. (You will need to register for an account on the site.)
Federal Bureau of Investigation Fingerprint-Based Background Check
Volunteers needing clearances under the law that have lived in the state of Pennsylvania for less than ten consecutive years (including the current year) must obtain a fingerprint-based FBI Background Check. This background check carries a $23.25 fee. You must schedule an appointment and pay before you visit the fingerprinting site.
- Visit https://www.identogo.com/locations/pennsylvania
- Click on “Digital Fingerprinting.” On the next screen, enter the Service Code, which is: 1KG6ZJ.
- Click on Schedule or Manage Appointment.
- Click on Locate an Enrollment Center first to find the location to complete your fingerprints check that is closest to you, then go back to the Schedule an Appointment option. The company is continuing to add new fingerprinting locations.
- Follow the prompts for completing the required information and printing the registration form to take to the fingerprinting location.
Volunteers that have lived in the state of Pennsylvania for the last ten consecutive years are exempt from this check but must complete an affidavit affirming as such.
Who must obtain clearances?
The PA Department of Human Services has offered specific guidance to councils regarding whom these laws apply. The following is a list that, while not comprehensive, provides examples of who must apply for the clearances and who do not have to complete them.
Clearances ARE required for:
- Direct contact leaders
- Including, but not limited to, Scoutmasters, assistant Scoutmasters, Cubmasters, assistant Cubmasters, Den Leaders, assistant Den Leaders, Venturing Crew Advisors, assistant Crew Advisors, Sea Scout Skippers and Mates
- Merit Badge Counselors
- Drivers to camps and events when it is an organized carpool
- Parents that supervise more than their child at Popcorn Show and Sell or storefront sales
- Ockanickon Scout Reservation Campmasters
- Parents volunteering at events that may be acting in loco parentis and have direct contact with youth
- Example: Committee members volunteering as adult leaders on camping trips, Chartered Organization Representatives volunteering at a unit fundraiser, etc.
- Non-registered parents who act as direct contact leaders
Clearances are NOT required for:
- Program participants over the age of 18, including Venturers, Explorers, or Scouts that have the approval to register beyond the age of eligibility
- Tiger Adult Partners, as they are one to one with their own child. (IMPORTANT: If you are a grandparent, relative, or other designee that is not the parent, YOU MUST OBTAIN CLEARANCES)
- Community volunteers serving on Eagle Scout Boards of Review
- Parents who are attending with their own child at Pack meetings, day events, or events where parents must participate with their own child (e.g. Cub Family Camping Weekends)
What if I live out-of-state?
A circumstance that is most applicable to our volunteers in New Jersey, but may apply to other volunteers registered in our council, the laws do make a provision for volunteers that reside out-of-state. The laws state that out-of-state volunteers that would otherwise be required to obtain clearances are exempt from obtaining the clearances, provided that they work with children in the state of Pennsylvania for 30 days or less in a given calendar year.
If you work with children in the state of Pennsylvania for more than 30 days in a calendar year in a capacity that would otherwise require you to obtain clearances, you must obtain the clearances.
Note that this exemption is based on your residency, and not your volunteerism location. Therefore, if you are a volunteer that works with a New Jersey unit but resides in Pennsylvania, you must obtain the clearances.
How do I submit the clearances?
The council and individual units must maintain records of clearances, which are valid for 60 months from the date of issue. There are some very key provisions regarding the clearances:
- If you have already obtained the clearances for employment reasons, they may also be used for volunteer purposes
- There is no provisional period for Pennsylvania residents, and those new volunteers residing in PA must submit their clearances with the BSA Adult Application.
- If you are a current volunteer (as of August 2015) and are required under the law to submit the clearances, the Washington Crossing Council will obtain these clearances during the annual recharter period.
- Clearances are valid for 60 months but may be reapplied for beginning 3 months in advance of the expiration date. The renewal date for all clearances is based on the date of the oldest clearance.
- The laws provide for the acceptance of copies for volunteer purposes.
To submit the clearances, you can use the council’s established secure online form for clearance submission, which allows you to upload a PDF of each document you must submit. You will be asked to enter basic identifying information, including a BSA ID number if you have one, and to upload each file. You can enter, save, and go back to add additional information as it is necessary.
Unit volunteers are also required to submit these clearances through the unit’s established process.