In recent months, we’ve blogged about the new Pennsylvania laws that require background checks for anyone working with or volunteering with minors. While the law was passed to protect minors, a number of organizations have been heavily impacted financially, and the impact of the law has had some unintended effects – possibly affecting programs such as work-study and internships.
The law requires volunteers in Pennsylvania who work with minors to pass state child abuse and criminal backgrounds beginning July 1. This has led to concerns about the cost of the backgrounds affecting the number of people willing to volunteer. Thus, the governor has taken action. The Lancaster Online reports that beginning July 25, the state will waive fees for volunteers. While employees who work with minors (i.e. in child care services, schools, and colleges) don’t qualify for waivers, they did receive lowered costs for the background checks.
Financial concerns about the impact of the new law has been an issue. Organizations relying on volunteers, and school systems that use parents as volunteers were afraid that they would see a decrease in volunteers due to cost of the fees. Additionally, implementing the background checks has proven to be financially difficult for many organizations and schools. An example of this is Millersville University, which reported that the costs for doing background checks for approximately 1,000 staff members and 2,000 student employees would be about $250,000.
In addition to financial concerns, people have spoken up about how it can mean the loss of certain programs. For example, the law can possibly affect work-study and internship programs for minors. If companies are required to conduct background checks on their employees in order to host positions for minors, they may be reluctant to help with these programs. In response to these concerns, the state House is considering making changes to the law. The Lancaster Online reports that there is support for changes by both the state House and the Senate.
Reviewing and possibly updating the state’s background screening law is good for all involved. Some of the unintended consequences may be eliminated. And the process of reviewing the law is similar to an organization that regularly re-examines its background policies and makes changes as a result.