Note: Please see previous post for explanation of below
I noticed that there were some previous blog posts on “chops” regarding the topic of background checks. This is an important issue and good place to start this week’s security post.
Many states require background checks for anyone who will be working with children. It is important for your church to have an application process for selecting and vetting individuals to work in children’s ministry. These laws normally always apply to both employees of the church, as well as, volunteers. Part of the application process should include a questionnaire regarding past criminal history. You want to be sensitive and provide an environment for this questionnaire to be private and confidential. Many people are ashamed of their sinful past. Even if they have turned from their sins, many still do not want to open up the door to the past issues of their former life. You want to respect there privacy; however, you also need to stress the importance of them being open and honest when it comes to the legal ramification of a criminal past. The Lord may have forgiven them; however, the many legal systems have not. Regardless of forgiveness and change some convicted crimes legally require disclosure.
The application and questionnaire should just be a starting point. As mentioned before many states require a background check to be conducted by both the state and the FBI to allow someone to work with children. This may sound like it is a big and confusing task. Do not be alarmed! It is easier than you think.
Some states will allow the person wishing to be checked to initiate the process on their own by going to the local or state police station. The police station will finger print them on the spot. Most of the time there is a preprinted card with a background questionnaire on the back of the form. This form is then sent into the state and for a small fee, normally paid by the person submitting the application. The state will return a full background check to the person noted on the form. Please be aware of an important detail related to how this normally works. Fingerprint background checks only investigate if a person has been convicted of a crime in the past. It will not give you a detail report of every incident they have been involved in. A fingerprint based background check also does not involve interviewing and questioning an applicant, their friends, relatives, or co-workers. This is simply a check to identify prior convictions of a crime. It is also critical to note that some jurisdictions only require a state level fingerprint background check. This means that if a person has committed a crime in another state it may not show up on the check. If your church is going to require a fingerprint background check than make sure that it also includes the National FBI check as well.
You might be tempted to think that this is a little overkill. In my opinion and professional judgment when it comes to protecting the children of our church, nothing is overkill. Would you be comfortable with a convicted felon watching your child?
We all want to protect our children; however, we should also want to protect those members of our church that do have a criminal past. Some members may still be on probation. The terms of their probation may limit them from certain activities. For example, many states restrict convicted felons from ever working with children. As a church we want to ensure that we do not have a member of our congregation volunteering to serve in a position that ultimately is causing them to break the law? We want to serve and protect them as well.
Many people have already posted other suggestions for companies that will conduct detailed background checks for you. All of these are great ideas. A fingerprint background check in just a start. Your goal should be to strive for your church to conduct full checks of all volunteering and employees working at your church, especially with children!!
Please feel free to comment on my posts, as well as, ask any security related question that your church is seeking answers to.
This site is the official national database for registered sex offenders. It is free to use and should be a start for all your searches.