Call it service with a smile – and a background check.
A new final rule issued by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) requires many of its grantees to conduct criminal history checks on participants and staffers who have “recurring” access to children under 17, older people and people with disabilities.
A 90-day clock started ticking on Aug. 24 for AmeriCorps state and national programs, and for Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent sponsoring organizations, to complete a free National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR) check on current participants and grant-funded employees. This basic search must be done by Nov. 23.
“We tried to be fair,” said Tom Bryant, associate general counsel for the corporation. He said the new baseline requirements don’t preclude states from conducting more in-depth background checks. “We thought being on the sexual offender registry was a pretty good indicator that they should not be serving with these populations.”
A state criminal registry check and a NSOPR check must be conducted for any new (or reapplying) participants and staff after Nov. 23. Those who fail to conduct the checks could incur liability risks and lose some or all of their grant funds. Individuals who refuse to consent to a check are not eligible to serve.
Programs can use federal grants to pay for the checks.
Excluded from the federal requirement, but covered by state child care laws, are the Learn and Serve and RSVP programs of CNCS, as well as unaffiliated volunteers recruited by national and community service programs.
More information and technical assistance resources are at http://www.nationalservice.gov/for_organizations/manage/history_checks.asp.
– Erika Fitzpatrick