Pennsylvania Amends Background Certification Requirements

Pennsylvania House Bill 1276 amends and clarifies the state's law regarding background clearances for employees and volunteers who have direct, routine contact with children.

Pennsylvania law (§ 6344) requires specific employees and volunteers to obtain certification whenever their job duties involve direct contact with children. This certification requirement is now amended to apply to the below individuals or entities:

  • An employee of child-care services;
  • A self-employed provider of child-care services in a family child-care home;
  • An individual 14 years of age or older who is applying for or holding a paid position as an employee with a program, activity, or service responsible for a child's welfare or having direct contact with children;
  • Any individual seeking to provide child-care services under contract with a child-care facility or program;
  • Certain school employees, including those not governed by the Public School Code of 1949;
  • Minors between the ages of 14 and 17 years who apply for or hold a paid position as an employee who is responsible for the child's welfare or with direct contact with children through a program, activity or service prior to the commencement of employment or relating to re-certification;
  • Individuals aged 18 years or above who live in a home where someone has applied for a certificate of compliance or a license to provide child day care in the home; and
  • Volunteers, if they have direct volunteer contact, meaning they have care, supervision, guidance, or control AND routine interaction with children.
Volunteers who are not residents of the state of Pennsylvania must provide the employer, administrator, supervisor, or other person responsible for the selection of volunteers with documentation of certification by another jurisdiction.

Effective December 31, 2014, employees and volunteers are required to obtain re-certification every five years from the date of the oldest certification. If the certification is older than five years, the employee must be re-certified by December 31, 2015. Employees without certification, who were not previously required to have certification, must obtain background certification no later than December 31, 2015. New or prospective employees must obtain certification prior to commencing their employment.

If a volunteer's certification is older than five years, the volunteer must be re-certified by August 25, 2015. Volunteers who were not previously required to have certification must obtain certification no later than July 1, 2016. Volunteer certification cannot be used for employment purposes.

Exceptions:
Volunteers who are required to submit a report of federal criminal history, including fingerprints, may have this obligation waived if volunteering for an unpaid position. The individual must have been a Pennsylvania resident during the entire previous 10-year period. If not, the individual must have received certification at any time since establishing their Pennsylvania residency, and provide a copy of the certification to the employer.

Exceptions for volunteer certification may be made if the individual:
  • Swears or affirms in writing that he or she is not disqualified from service;
  • Has not been convicted of an offense deemed to be grounds for denying employment;
  • Is currently enrolled in school;
  • Is not responsible for the child's welfare; and
  • Is volunteering for an event that occurs on school grounds and is sponsored by the school in which the individual is enrolled as a student and the event is not for children who are in the care of a child-care service.
Minors between the aged 14 to 17 years must submit the certification information, except for the fingerprints for a state police and FBI record check when certain other conditions apply.

Fees & Waivers

Fees are required for certain background certifications, and they may be waived for volunteers if the individual:

  • Swears and affirms in writing that the background certification is necessary to satisfy the background certification requirements;
  • He or she has not received background certifications free of charge within the previous 57 months; and
  • The volunteer understands that the certifications will not be valid or used for any other purpose.
An employer, administrator, supervisor, or other person responsible for the selection of volunteers are presumed to have acted in good faith when identifying individuals required to submit certification and maintain records as required by law.

Portability

House Bill 1276 includes provisions for the portability of a background certification. If an individual's certifications are current, and he or she completes an affirmation, the individual may use the certifications to apply for employment and to serve as a volunteer. Before starting employment or service, the individual must:

  • Swear or affirm in writing that he or she has not been disqualified from employment or service; or 
  • Has not been named in the statewide database as a perpetrator of a founded report committed within the preceding five-year period; and
  • Has not been convicted of a criminal offense that is considered grounds for denying employment or participation in the program, activity or service.
Employers should:

  • Determine if you have employees or volunteers in Pennsylvania that work with children.
  • Ensure that background certifications are complete on existing employees by December 31, 2015.
  • Ensure that background certifications are complete on new prospective employees before employment begins.
  • Ensure that background certifications are complete for all new volunteers by August 25, 2015. 
  • Ensure that background certifications are complete for all existing volunteers by July 1, 2016.

Pennsylvania law (§ 6344) requires specific employees and volunteers to obtain certification whenever their job duties involve direct contact with children. This certification requirement is now amended to apply to the below individuals or entities:

  • An employee of child-care services;
  • A self-employed provider of childcare services in a family child-care home;
  • An individual 14 years of age or older who is applying for or holding a paid position as an employee with a program, activity, or service, as a person responsible for a child's welfare or having direct contact with children;
  • Any individual seeking to provide child-care services under contract with a child-care facility or program;
  • Certain school employees, including those not governed by the Public School Code of 1949;
  • Minors between the ages of 14 and 17 years who apply for or hold a paid position as an employee who is responsible for the child's welfare or a person with direct contact with children through a program, activity or service prior to the commencement of employment or relating to re-certification;
  • Individuals aged 18 years or above who live in a home where someone has applied for a certificate of compliance or a license to provide child day care in the home; and
  • Volunteers if they have direct volunteer contact, meaning they have care, supervision, guidance, or control AND routine interaction with children.
Volunteers who are not residents of the state of Pennsylvania must provide the employer, administrator, supervisor, or other person responsible for the selection of volunteers with documentation of certification by another jurisdiction.

Effective December 31, 2014, employees and volunteers are required to obtain re-certification every five years from the date of the oldest certification. If the certification is older than five years, the employee must be re-certified by December 31, 2015. Employees without certification, who were not previously required to have certification, must obtain background certification no later than December 31, 2015. New or prospective employees must obtain certification prior to commencing their employment.

If a volunteer's certification is older than five years, the volunteer must be re-certified by August 25, 2015. Volunteers who were not previously required to have certification must obtain certification no later than July 1, 2016. Volunteer certification cannot be used for employment purposes.

Exceptions:
Volunteers required to submit a report of federal criminal history, including fingerprints, may have this obligation waived if volunteering for an unpaid position. The individual must have been a Pennsylvania resident during the entire previous 10-year period. If not, the individual must have received certification at any time since establishing their Pennsylvania residency, and provide a copy of the certification to the employer.

Exceptions for volunteer certification may be made if the individual:

  • Swears or affirms in writing that he or she is not disqualified from service;
  • Has not bee convicted of an offense deemed to be grounds for denying employment;
  • Is currently enrolled in school;
  • Is not responsible for the child's welfare; and
  • Is volunteering for an event that occurs on school grounds and is sponsored by the school in which the individual is enrolled as a student and the event is not for children who are in the care of a child-care service.
Minors between the aged 14 to 17 years must submit the certification information, except for the fingerprints for a state police and FBI record check when certain other conditions apply.

Fees & Waivers

Fees are required for certain background certifications, and they may be waived for volunteers if the individual:

  • Swears and affirms in writing that the background certification is necessary to satisfy the background certification requirements;
  • He or she has not received background certifications free of charge within the previous 57 months; and
  • The volunteer understands that the certifications will not be valid or used for any other purpose.
An employer, administrator, supervisor, or other person responsible for the selection of volunteers are presumed to have acted in good faith when identifying individuals required to submit certification and maintain records as required by law.

Portability

House Bill 1276 includes provisions for the portability of a background certification. If an individual's certifications are current, and he or she completes an affirmation, the individual may use the certifications to apply for employment and to serve as a volunteer. Before starting employment or service, the individual must:

  • Swear or affirm in writing that he or she has not been disqualified from employment or service; or 
  • Has not been named in the statewide database as a perpetrator of a founded report committed within the preceding five-year period; and
  • Has not been convicted of a criminal offense that is considered grounds for denying employment or participation in the program, activity or service.
Employers should:

  • Determine if you have employees or volunteers in Pennsylvania that work with children.
  • Ensure that background certifications are complete on existing employees by December 31, 2015.
  • Ensure that background certifications are complete on new prospective employees before employment begins.
  • Ensure that background certifications are complete for all new volunteers by August 25, 2015. 
  • Ensure that background certifications are complete for all existing volunteers by July 1, 2016.

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