Background Checks

If your organization uses volunteers to help with programs for children or some other vulnerable population, you really should be doing a background check on all of them!

Recently, a volunteer with a Little League program was discovered to have been listed on the state’s sex offender registry.  No one involved noticed that the volunteer hadn’t filled out the necessary form required at the beginning of the season.  If he had filled out the paperwork, his listing on the state’s sex offender registry would have been discovered earlier.  Fortunately, no harm was done in this instance, but the slip-up simply shows how easily a mistake can be made.

The foregoing story highlights the importance of making sure everyone, even volunteers involved with youth programs, have had a background check done before being allowed around young people.  The risk of harm to kids, as well as other vulnerable populations, is just too great not to play it safe by doing a background check first.

Unlike regular employees, there is no risk for the organization, like a Little League program, of being accused of negligent hiring when the people are volunteers.  But if a volunteer causes harm to one of the children, it’s probable that the organization will be sued for negligence anyway for failing to use reasonable care in the selection of volunteers.

Furthermore, a background check should be an open and above-board exercise for everyone involved.  People willing to volunteer should be told that a background check will be done and their permission to carry out the check should be secured.  The point, it seems to me, is that people with nothing to hide ought to be happy to have a background check done.  People with stains on their backgrounds or who are merely offended by the requirement of a background check will probably object to the check.  If some withdraw their names from the list of volunteers, it’s likely they have something to hide; and, even if they don’t, anyone who objects to having a background check done should obviously be allowed to leave.

It’s a sad fact of life that there are people out there who wouldn’t think twice about abusing a child, an elderly person, or someone who is seriously ill.  It goes without saying that all prospective employees should have background checks done.  The same is now true for those who merely volunteer to help coach or care for a child, work with the elderly, or help out at a healthcare facility.