Who needs clearances?

Beginning August 25, 2015, an adult (18 years of age or older) applying for an unpaid position as a volunteer responsible for the welfare of a child (acting in lieu of or on behalf of the parent) or having direct contact (provide care, supervision, guidance, or control of children) or routine interaction (regular, repeated, or on-going contact) with children will need clearances.

NOTE: As of this writing, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has provided the definition above as to which volunteers are required to submit clearances under this new law. The challenge for local councils has been and continues to be aligning the multitude of volunteer positions within the organization with the need for clearances. As BSA volunteers more often than not wear multiple hats and accept multiple responsibilities (where the definition above would apply) some councils have adopted a policy of requiring clearances from all registered volunteers.  We currently have adopted a waiver for certain positions that do not have direct contact with youth.


What clearances are required of local council volunteers (applying for an unpaid position)?

1. Report of criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) (free after July 25, 2015). Go to:  https://epatch.state.pa.us/.


NOTE: This clearance from the Pennsylvania State Police will display on the computer screen only. This report must be printed as a .PDF if it is to be saved to a computer! Free .PDF converters are available for download from the web.

2.  Child Abuse History Clearance from the Department of Human Services (Child Abuse) (free after July 25, 2015)


3. For volunteers who have NOT been a Pennsylvania resident continuously for the past ten years, a fingerprint based federal criminal history submitted through the Pennsylvania State Police or its authorized agent (FBI) is required. (Cost of approximately $25) https://www.pa.cogentid.com/index.htm 


For volunteers who have been a Pennsylvania resident continuously for the past ten years, they must swear or affirm in writing that they are not disqualified from service based on a previous conviction or offense. These volunteers must complete a “Waiver and Disclosure Statement Application for Volunteers”.


Clearances for new Volunteers (after August 25, 2015):

Any new volunteer who begins his or her volunteer service on or after August 25, 2015 must apply for and submit all three clearances to their local council. The council must receive all compliance materials before the volunteer participates in any activity where he or she will supervise and/or have direct contact with children under the age of 18. New volunteers (after August 25, 2015) should not be registered until the council has evidence of compliance.


Who Pays for Clearances??

The volunteer is responsible for paying the cost of the required clearances. The only time a council is required to bear the cost of the clearance is when there is a reasonable belief that the volunteer was arrested or convicted of an offense that would deny participation or the volunteer is named as a perpetrator in an indicated or founded report. In these situations, the council must immediately require and pay for the volunteer to obtain their clearances.


May a Volunteer be Denied Participation or Removed from Service Based on this new PA Law?

If a volunteer is arrested for or convicted of an offense that would constitute grounds for denying participation in a program, activity or service, or is named as a perpetrator in a founded or indicated report, the volunteer must provide the Chartered Organization and Scout executive or their designee with written notice not later than 72 hours after the arrest, conviction or notification that the person has been listed as a perpetrator in the statewide database.

A volunteer who willfully fails to disclose information as required above commits a misdemeanor of the third degree and shall be subject to discipline up to and including termination or denial of a volunteer position.


What is the Renewal Requirement for Clearances?

Beginning August 25, 2015, all volunteers will be required to obtain clearances every 60 months. Timeframes for renewed clearances are based upon the date of each individual clearance. If the council elects to renew all clearances at the same time (i.e. at the unit’s recharter renewal date), the date of the oldest clearance obtained should be used to calculate the three year expiration date, rather than using the most recent clearance (avoiding mid charter clearance expirations).

Volunteers are required to obtain updated clearances as follows:

• Within 36 months of the date of the most recent clearance;

• By July 1, 2016, if the clearance is older than 60 months; or

• By July 1, 2016, if they were approved as a volunteer before August 25, 2015, and had not received a clearance because they previously were not required to obtain clearances.


Out-of-state Volunteer 30 Day Provisional Period:

The “single period, not to exceed 30 days” has been interpreted to mean one single volunteer period (activity or volunteer episode) not to exceed 30 days, without obtaining clearances. Out-of-state volunteers may return to the Commonwealth multiple times throughout the year, as long as a single visit does not exceed 30 days – PA Department of Human services.

Example: A New York Scouting volunteer may supervise children in a Pennsylvania camp for Activity A for any timeframe between one and thirty days. If that same volunteer leaves Pennsylvania and subsequently returns to Pennsylvania at a later date for Activity B, the volunteer period restarts and the volunteer may participate in that activity without clearances for an additional period, not to exceed 30 days. The volunteer must be an out-of-state resident that can provide proof of compliance with the laws of his or her state regarding background clearances and child protection laws.


Helpful Hints:

ü  An individual’s clearances are transferable from volunteer to volunteer positions, within the council or between agencies, regardless of the time frame, as long as the clearances have not expired.

ü  The compliance dates provided above are based on meeting the requirements for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Chartered Organizations of individual units may set dates, which are prior to the deadlines established for Pennsylvania, due to individual Chartered Organization insurance requirements.

ü  The Bucktail Council has developed a waiver to be used with and may apply to and be used with Chartered Organization Representatives, Committee Chairs, Committee Members, Unit College Reserve, Unit Scouter Reserve, and Pack Trainers. 


Helpful Resources:

Volunteer FAQ’s - http://keepkidssafe.pa.gov/supportingdocuments/index.htm