You don’t have to search hard to realize how dangerous our world can be at times. Go to your favorite news site, and you’ll see headline after headline where a predator has gone undetected or slipped through the cracks, and as a result, another victim was added to the statistics. A quick Google search for Church Predator Abuse returns 8,600,000 results in 0.57 seconds! It’s sick, and it’s sad, but it’s a reality. We need to keep kids safe in 2019.
Consequences of abuse:
Victims of child abuse often struggle with the emotional and spiritual effects of this sin for the rest of their lives. Sadly, child abuse victims are themselves at higher risk of inflicting the abuse on other children. Allegations of abuse can also tarnish, sometimes irretrievably, a church’s ministry. Instead of being able to discuss the gospel, leadership must spend their time explaining to the media, to the courts, and to visitors why they weren’t able to prevent the abuse. Also, of course, the financial impact can be devastating as well. Some churches have faced verdicts of up to $100 million for child abuse committed by those whom they were charged with supervising. Any church or ministry that sends an individual to serve in ministry (even those that serve without pay) may be held responsible for the actions of that individual.
The pain and damage from this are far-reaching. The shame and guilt can be crushing. A world like this demands that you ensure your ministry is not seen as a soft-target to would be predators. One of the strongest predictors of future criminal behavior is a person’s criminal history. Background checks are your window into the past and a vital element in a healthy church risk-management program.
What is a background check?
A background check is a “records” screening of an individual which can be as little as a one-county check or as in-depth as a Security clearance investigation. Public and private records can be searched once applicant consent is given. The industry standard for turn-around time on a background check is 72 hours; however, some providers have same-day to 48-hour turn-around times.
Why do background checks?
A ministry that serves children and youth must exercise “due diligence” with regards to protecting its members, especially the children. By performing background checks on your volunteers, your ministry is putting up a safeguard at the “doorway” of the organization that will, in most cases, scare off sexual predators. You’ll also offer better peace of mind to discerning parents when choosing a church, by knowing your ministry is being proactive in trying to protect the children and that you do not tolerate, or turn a blind eye to abuse.
What criteria should your ministry require for a background check?
Multiple databases are searched to provide background information, however, they are not equally maintained and accessed by each state. This makes universal criteria hard to enforce. For that reason, it’s critical that you partner with a credible background screening company. At the very minimum, the background check should cover Social Security Number Verification, National Criminal Search, Sex Offender Registries Search and offer “re-verification” of records from the national criminal database and also do a “true” 50 state search on sexual offenders.
Choosing a trusted background check provider
Your background check provider should become an extension of your ministry and help to evaluate needs and implement and maintain a thorough background-screening program for employees and volunteers. Look for background check providers that offer different packages. Also, choose a provider that helps you with selecting the proper searches with recommendations based on the quality of data available in each state and industry best practices. Some simplify this process through an intuitive online consultation.
Before sending national background results to their clients, background check providers should verify the accuracy of the information by thoroughly reviewing every positive record “hit” returned from the national criminal & sex offender database. Then ensure those records are “frozen” for further investigation at the county courthouse before being returned and included in a final report. Doing this will prevent you from getting “false positives,” which can happen when doing national database searches. From there further due diligence is required, filtering out unreportable records (e.g., parking tickets). Clearing out unreportable records before sending results is the best way to protect the applicant’s rights and is required by the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA). A complete final report should include the following:
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