UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The closure of fingerprinting stations throughout Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 emergency has left employees and volunteers who have direct contact with children unable to obtain the required documentation to work. To provide relief, a new law, known as Act 18, was signed May 8 by Gov. Tom Wolf that temporarily suspends the FBI background check requirement until Dec. 31, 2020, or 60 days after the end of the emergency declaration, whichever comes first.
The closure of fingerprinting stations has added additional stress to youth programs already struggling with how to safely staff and maintain required child/caregiver ratios in the wake of the elimination of provisional hiring in Act 47, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Before the passage of Act 47, Pennsylvania employers could provisionally hire individuals who had successfully completed a Pennsylvania State Police background check and ChildLine clearances, provided that they not be alone with children and remain in the vicinity of a fully cleared employee at all times. This allowed programs to staff fully while awaiting results of the lengthy FBI background and fingerprint checks and was in line with Penn State policy, which already did not allow one-on-one contact with minors.
“These 90-day provisional hiring waivers were critical to maintaining appropriate staffing levels for our youth programs,” said Sandy Weaver, manager of youth program compliance in Penn State’s Office of Ethics and Compliance. “If not for the cancellation of in-person youth programming through June 19, we would have had great difficulty in quickly obtaining cleared staff and volunteers to appropriately supervise the thousands of children attending camps across our campuses this summer.”
Kenya Mann Faulkner, chief ethics and compliance officer at Penn State, said that because Act 47 only allows provisional hiring waivers for licensed child care centers, group day care homes, or family child care homes, other youth program providers like Penn State have encountered considerable difficulty in hiring due to long wait times for federal background checks.
“We’re grateful for this temporary relief while we work on the greater issue of obtaining FBI clearances in a more timely manner or providing employers with more time to meet this requirement,” said Faulkner.
Under the temporary measures, new employees and volunteers may begin work without completion of federal clearances if the following conditions are met:
- The individual has been a resident of Pennsylvania for the past 10 years or submits a state police (or equivalent) background check from their last state of residence.
- The employer must document the reason, which relates to the COVID-19 disaster emergency, that the individual is unable to obtain and submit the certifications required.
- The individual must affirm, in writing, that they have not been convicted of a crime that disqualifies them from working with children.
- The individual must submit Pennsylvania State Police and ChildLine background checks.
- The individual must submit completed FBI background and fingerprint checks before Dec. 31, 2020, or within 60 days of the end of the COVID-19 emergency declaration, whichever is sooner.
Existing employees who were due to recertify their background checks after March 6, 2020, will be subject to the same deadline extension.
For more information on the process, contact Sandy Weaver via email at email@example.com.