The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
December 16, 1994 94-R-1130
FROM: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
RE: Criminal Background Checks for Youth Workers
You asked whether federal law requires background checks on adults seeking to work with children in such groups as the Boy Scouts.
CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR YOUTH WORKERS
The National Child Protection Act (P.L. 103-209, enclosed) authorizes, but does not require, states to establish programs to conduct background checks of people who work with children, whether paid or volunteer. Under the act, states can establish procedures to conduct state and federal criminal records checks to determine whether the worker has been convicted of a crime relevant to his fitness to be responsible for the safety and well-being of children. The procedures can apply to anyone who seeks to work with children in a wide variety of organizations, including education, day care, and recreation. The procedures must require the individual to submit his fingerprints and a form that identifies any crimes that he has been convicted of to a designated state agency. The agency must determine whether the individual has been convicted of or indicted for a crime that bears on his fitness to work with children and convey its results to the organization. The act exempts the organization from liability for the failure to conduct a background check. It also holds states, their subdivisions, and employees harmless for the failure of the organization to act upon learning of a criminal record. The act specifies that the fees charged by the federal and state government for a background check on a prospective volunteer cannot exceed the actual costs of the check. States must ensure that fees charged to nonprofit organizations do not discourage people from volunteering.
According to Department of Children and Families staff, Connecticut has chosen not to implement this program and has no plans to do so. Staff at the Boy Scouts of America note that their organization alone has 10,000 volunteers in the state who could be subject to background checks if the program was implemented here. They estimate that the background check would cost about $50 and would deter people from volunteering with their organization.
Several other provisions of the act are mandatory. States must establish a timetable for providing child abuse crime records on-line through the federal criminal history background check system. As part of this timetable, states must have a computerized system that identifies the final disposition of 80% of child abuse criminal cases and has measures to increase this proportion to 100% of the cases. The act authorizes grants to meet these requirements and authorizes the U.S. attorney general to withhold part of federal law enforcement funding to states that do not comply with the requirements.