The Child Protection Improvements Act (H.R. 695) has been reintroduced into Congress. This bill closes a gaping hole in the federal law regarding youth-serving organization's access to FBI background checks.
- HR 695: Sponsored by Representatives Adam Schiff (CA-29) and Mike Bishop (MI-8) — was introduced on 1/24/2017 and has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Read the bill.
- In the 111th Congress, this bipartisan bill passed through the House of Representatives by a vote of 412–4. In the 112th Congress, this bill passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee but was not considered on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives.
- There is no single all-encompassing background check database available in this country.
- While still not all-encompassing, an FBI check is the best background check available, yet it is not always accessible to camps and other youth-serving organizations. The FBI check is the only truly nationwide check available.
- Individual states are the gatekeepers of criminal history information and they can decide who can access the information, as well as who can have access to the FBI’s information. In fact, thirty-four states bar access to FBI information! Those that do allow access to the FBI information charge significant fees (ranging from $24 – $59 per person), and have long turn-around times of up to six weeks.
The Solutions Presented in This Bill
The purpose of the bill is to close a gaping hole in the federal law that prevents camps, children’s groups, mentoring organizations, after-school programs and other organizations that work with children or vulnerable adults from gaining access to federal criminal background checks on employees and volunteers.
The Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA) is a bipartisan bill that would allow organizations serving vulnerable populations (children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities) to conduct fast, accurate and affordable background checks on prospective volunteers and employees.
The FBI’s fingerprint-based background checks are a critical component of a comprehensive background check process, but thousands of organizations don’t have access or they are too expensive to afford.
CPIA builds on the success of the PROTECT Act’s Child Safety pilot which ran from 2003 until 2011. The pilot provided direct access to FBI fingerprint background checks for a variety of child-serving nonprofit organizations. Well over 100,000 background checks were performed during the pilot and found that more than 6 percent of the potential volunteers had criminal records of concern (based on criterion offenses established specifically for the pilot). Forty-two percent of the individuals with criminal records of concern had crimes in states other than where they were applying to volunteer – meaning that only a nationwide check would have flagged these individuals’ criminal records.
Specifically, CPIA amends the National Child Protection Act of 1993 to establish a permanent background check system. The bill:
- Ensures that organizations that serve vulnerable populations (children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities) nationwide have access to FBI fingerprint background checks. No organization would be required to utilize these fingerprint checks under CPIA.
Protects privacy rights by ensuring that the specifics of a criminal record are never disclosed without explicit consent by the volunteer or potential staff and provide an opportunity for individuals to correct errors in their records with the FBI.
- Does NOT authorize new spending. The program will be supported by the fees assessed for performing the background checks. Specifically, CPIA caps the cost of such a check at no more than $18.
At its core, CPIA is about providing information to organizations to enable discussion and informed decision-making about potential volunteers and staff wishing to work with children and other vulnerable populations.
Under CPIA, a criminal record would NOT automatically disqualify someone from volunteering.
CPIA directly benefits millions of children and adults across the nation who are involved with mentoring organizations, after-school programs, youth sports, summer camps, and more.
Of the nearly 40,000 checks conducted in the pilot program, 6.1 percent of all applicants were found to have criminal records that rendered them unfit to work with children! (This included convictions of criminal sexual conduct with a child, aggravated criminal assault, rape, homicide, and other serious felonies.)
- Forty percent of these individuals had a criminal record from other states, meaning that only a nationwide check would have caught the criminal record.
- Twenty-six percent of these individuals showed a different name on their record than the one they used on their job application.
Organizations Endorsing This Legislation
- A World Fit for Kids
- After-School All-Stars
- Afterschool Alliance
- Amachi, Inc.
- American Camp Association
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America
- Catholic Charities USA
- College Mentors for Kids, Inc.
- Concerned Black Men National
- First Focus
- Friends of the Children
- Futures Without Violence
- Girl Scouts of the USA
- Girls Inc.
- MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
- Mentors, Inc.
- My Sister’s Circle
- National Alliance for Faith and Justice
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- National Human Services Assembly
- National PTA
- Spark Action
- The First Tee
- U.S. Dream Academy
- U.S. Soccer Foundation
- YMCA of the USA