PROTECTScreen

The PROTECT Act Pilot
To allow Camps Access to FBI Criminal Records Checks
For Camp Volunteers

Overview
The pilot program allows participating camps to submit fingerprints of their volunteers to the FBI. The FBI sends the criminal records report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC reviews the records and makes a determination of whether the volunteer meets the criteria of the pilot to serve as a volunteer. Camps then use the determination to make their decision to use a volunteer or not.

The cost is $18 per volunteer and the turn-around time is one week or less.

More details can be found in the PROTECTScreen Manual (PDF - 546k).

Why This Pilot is So Important to the Camp Community

Every year, more than 11 million children and adults benefit from the camp experience at approximately 12,000 camps throughout the United States.  Those 12,000 camps use almost 2 million individuals as staff or volunteers to serve children, youth, and vulnerable adults.   The American Camp Association believes that camps should utilize multifaceted screening and hiring programs and support practices appropriate to the clientele, staffing, supervision and program consideration of each camp.  (View the ACA Standard on Staff Screening, HR-4.)

Currently, the only way to ensure the identity of an individual is through fingerprinting.  However, camps may not be able to access a fingerprint-based check, depending on their state's background check laws.  For more information about the differences between fingerprint-based checks and name-based checks, access the PROTECTScreen Manual.

An FBI check is the best identity background check available (although still not all-encompassing - for details, access the PROTECTScreen Manual), but it is not always accessible or feasible for camps. In States that allow access to camps, an FBI check must be obtained through a State’s background check agency.  But, many States have strict eligibility requirements for FBI checks, and camps often don't qualify. When FBI checks are accessible, they may be very costly and have a lengthy turnaround time.

Under current law, youth-serving organizations in 37 states are prevented from getting nationwide criminal record checks, leaving them the only option of conducting only state and local checks. (For information on your State’s laws, visit the state regulations database.)

Additionally, the kind of information that is received from a background check varies widely by State and locality. For example, some States such as Colorado have established guidelines as to what crimes are acceptable in order to hire an individual to work with children. In other States, background checks return vague information about what crimes have been committed, and leave it up to the employer to determine hireability. The American Camp Association believes that it is critical that background checks become consistent in the information provided according to identical pre-determined indicators of potentially harmful behavior. (For more information on ACA's position, access the ACA Public Policy Position Statement on Criminal Background Checks.)

Type Of Background Check That Will be Performed
The PROTECTScreen pilot allows camps access to a fingerprint-based FBI criminal background check. To obtain a FBI fingerprint background check, a volunteer must complete a "ten-print" fingerprint card in which all ten fingers are inked and rolled onto a special fingerprint card. These fingerprints are then compared with the digitized fingerprints and criminal records in the FBI’s master criminal record database (called IAFIS), the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and the National Sex Offender Registry. 

IAFIS contains criminal records on over 45 million individuals, with 5,000 to 7,000 new individuals being added every day (after they are arrested for the first time). All federal crimes are included in IAFIS, plus the large majority of non-federal crimes, which are maintained by the states.  IAFIS contains both arrest and conviction records. It is the most complete criminal history database in the country, and is continuously updated to ensure data integrity and quality. NCIC includes a Wanted Persons File with 1.2 million records, and the National Sex Offender Registry includes over 300,000 offenders. 

Determining if the Pilot is Right for Your Camp
PROTECTScreen
may not be right for every camp. Each camp should consider all of the information included in the PROTECTScreen Manual before deciding whether or not to participate in the pilot. ACA's overview of background check issues (PDF) can also help you make your decisions. Key things to consider about the pilot:

  • The pilot is currently only available to your camp's volunteers - not your paid staff.
  • Your state may have laws or regulations requiring you to perform specific types of background checks. Refer to the state regulations database for details about your state
  • Your state may already subsidize the cost of the FBI background check so that it is less expensive than the pilot’s $18 charge. One example is Oregon, where FBI checks are available at no cost to some nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations.

Criteria Used to Develop a Fitness Determination

Consistent with the provisions of the PROTECT Act, the original participants in the pilot determined that convictions for the five following crimes will result in a determination that a volunteer "does not meet" the criteria to serve as a volunteer:

  • Any felony conviction (and any crime punishable by confinement greater than 1 year).
  • Any lesser crime using force or threat of force against a person.
  • Any lesser crime in which sexual relations is an element, including "victimless" crimes of a sexual nature.
  • Any lesser crime involving controlled substances (not paraphernalia or alcohol).
  • Any lesser crime involving cruelty to animals.

A conviction of any of these categories automatically gives the volunteer a determination of "does not meet the criteria". These categories are defined as criterion offenses. If the individual is a sex offender registrant, they will automatically be given the determination of "does not meet the criteria."

A volunteer having an arrest of one or more of the criterion offenses with no disposition noted in the criminal history will be assigned the determination of "may not meet the criteria." Additionally, any charge involving children resulting in a disposition favorable to the volunteer nonetheless with result in a determination of "may not meet the criteria."

If a volunteer has no criminal history or the crime in which the volunteer was arrested or convicted for is not a criterion offense, or the crime in which the volunteer was charged was a criterion offense and the volunteer was found not guilty, or the case was dismissed (except as noted in the above paragraph) will receive a determination of "meets the criteria."

Once a camp receives the determination on one of their volunteers, if a volunteer wants to appeal the determination, there is a process for doing so.  Refer to the PROTECTScreen Manual for details.

In any case, the final decision of whether to use a volunteer or not is at the complete discretion of the camp.

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