Groups Lobby for New Background Checks

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Alexandria, Va.-based MENTOR and its associated Mentoring Partnerships are leading the push to provide a new way for youth-serving volunteer groups to get FBI background  checks quickly.

A bill proposed in Congress, known as the Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA) would serve as a replacement for SafetyNET, which until March allowed the youth-serving groups to get expedited FBI fingerprint checks.

SafetyNET, created in the PROTECT Act of 2001, made it possible for organizations to run background checks on potential volunteers  at a low cost and within about 10 days. 

 “Going from 10 days to six weeks (to process background checks) is killing our recruitment efforts,” said Jeannette Simon, director of volunteer and mentoring services at Concerned Black Men National Organization in Washington, D.C. “When people want to volunteer, they do not mind waiting a week or two, but having to wait six weeks gives them the opportunity to find something else”

In its eight years, SafetyNET helped conduct almost 105,000 background checks, revealing that 6.1 percent of volunteers had criminal records that included rape, murder and child sexual abuse.

CPIA would once again create a streamlined system to allow these youth-serving programs to access this information and be able to hire the best possible volunteers.

The legislation was reintroduced by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) in the House and Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).