On July 1 Governor Wolf signed Act 15 (HB 1276) into law. The bill was drafted to “clarify and make more explicit provisions” about which employees and adult volunteers, who work or volunteer with children, must obtain criminal background check clearances and child abuse clearances. It was intended to clarify the new Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) and to address concerns expressed by numerous volunteer-based organizations. Some of the key changes to the CPSL made by HB 1276 include:
- Adds definitions of adult family member, direct volunteer contact, education enterprise, family child-care home, immediate vicinity, and matriculated student.
- Reworks the definition of program, activity, or service to further flesh out definition.
- Limits the employees, at institutions of higher learning, required to undergo background checks, while retaining required checks for adults who have direct contact with youth who remain enrolled in high school.
- Clarifies which adults will require background checks and need to be in the “vicinity” of the child during an internship, externship, work-study, co-op, or similar program.
- Extends to 60 months (vs. 36 months) the time frame by which employees and volunteers must have their background checks updated.
- Expands the portability of the checks.
- Exempts volunteers, who are also students, from the background checks under specific conditions (e.g., the student is enrolled in school, the student is volunteering for an event on school grounds, or the event is not for children who are part of a child-care service).
- Permanently waives the fees associated with volunteers completing state background checks.
- Includes a presumption of “good faith” for agencies screening employees and volunteers.