3 Things You Need To Know About Background Checks

3 Things You Need To Know About Background Checks
July 22, 2014 Bob D'Ambrosio

If you’re serving in church ministry, chances are you don’t have a degree in Criminal Justice! So here are the three most common questions (and answers) that you need to know when screening volunteers:

Can we perform criminal background checks on minors who want to work with kids?

Yes. While it’s technically possible, with parent or guardian permission, the results are likely to be extremely limited. Most juvenile court records are not publicly available. If the minor was charged and convicted as an adult, the background check would return a “hit,” but otherwise no record would surface even if the minor was found to be involved in a juvenile offense. Still, for the purpose of showing due diligence, some organizations choose to run checks on minors. Alternative screening options for minors would include reference checking, referrals, and increased adult supervision.

How long should we keep records from our criminal background checks?

Due to the sensitive nature of the data involved, your church should have a process in place to keep all documents secure and confidential. This would include the consent form, background check results, and any related documentation. Hard copy documents should be kept in a secured (locked) file and office. Records maintained on a computer should likewise be secured with a password and other protections.

It’s recommended that you keep a copy of the background check in some format as long as state law allows. Some states limit the length of time that an employer can keep background check material on an employee but most states do not. Because sexual abuse claims by minors can be filed years later, a recommended practice is to keep the documentation indefinitely to assist with defense of a claim if it’s ever presented.

How often should we re-run criminal background checks?

The most common practice is to run criminal background checks annually with the following exceptions:

  • If your organization operates a school, day care or preschool that’s licensed or accredited, the licensing body or accreditation organization may have specific requirements on the frequency of running criminal background checks on the workers.
  • If a worker or volunteer ends their service and then comes back and wants to work with minors again, it is a good idea to run the background check at that time, even if a year has not yet passed.
  • Your organization may want to check with local schools or other youth-serving organizations in the area to see how often they run background checks, then consider following that frequency at a minimum. In that way, it could be argued that your organization is following the standard of care in your community.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *