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Understanding Background Checks: How You Can Help Keep Children Safe


Volunteers play a crucial role in the success of many nonprofits and recreational organizations. They donate their time for the betterment of their communities and often have a positive impact on those to whom they lend their time. Yet all too often, we come across headlines about volunteers who have violated a community’s trust and committed acts that have caused serious harm to those they were meant to be helping.

Background checks are a necessary precaution for the protection of children and vulnerable populations, as well as for the organizations themselves. Organizations that fail to adopt the necessary steps to properly screen volunteers put the trust of their communities, sponsors, and patrons at risk. From lawsuits to loss of funding for the negligent appointment of volunteers, requiring a thorough background check for applicants from an accredited background screening company can help lower the risk of injury to all parties involved.

As reported by the Legal Intelligencer, beware of ‘do-it-yourself’ internet searches and companies that provide instant results online. Screening an applicant without their consent is a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Following the rules of the FCRA is a standard that is adhered to by reputable national background screening companies. Instant-result internet companies that offer background screening services can also put organizations at risk by not providing accurate or up-to-date information which could result in applicants who might have a questionable past, passing a sub-standard check.

When searching for a background screening provider, it is critical to know the process that is used to verify the identity of the applicant. Running a background check based solely on an applicant’s name is not only negligent but dangerous as incorrect name matches can lead to false positives or false negatives. Credible background screening providers will use a social security trace to help verify the identity of all potential applicants.

The first step in any comprehensive national screening program is a Social Security Verification. This verification process involves comparing all three identifiers (Name, Date of Birth, and Social Security Number) to ensure that the applicant has provided accurate information for the screening process. If the verification is confirmed, the process moves on. If not, the process should be stopped immediately until the potential problem is corrected. After the verification of identity has been confirmed, the next step is to identify all addresses that have been associated with the applicant’s name and social security number. This ensures that you and your vendor have all the data needed to make an intelligent decision on where you should start looking for possible criminal history. Without this step, it would be easy to assume that the applicant has spent most of their time at their current residence. However, if the person has just moved two months ago, you are only checking two months of their history and you would not be aware of this fact.

When searching for a background check provider, be aware of these red flags:

  • Companies that offer instant results

  • Unfiltered results and false positives

  • Background Checks that cost $13.00 or less – inexpensive

  • When a company says that a “National database is all that is needed” – County and Local searches are ALWAYS necessary

In order for organizations to protect themselves, those they serve, and their volunteers, it is necessary to implement a clear policy on background check procedures. Providing the right information in an easy to understand format will make your applicants feel more at ease and will allow them to understand what personal information is required of them and what will be done with that personal information. Privacy and identity theft are of great concern for many volunteer applicants which is why it is so important to conduct your screenings through a secure, accredited background screening company. Applicants should feel that their personal information is secure and the best way to do this is by employing a credible agency.

To find out more, visit the Legal Intelligencer here.

Learn more about our volunteer background check programs available for parks & recreation, youth sports, employment and more!

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Safety Club Admin, Parent NCSI