Deja Vu All Over Again


Back when screening was in its infancy, I remember my reaction when a person I screened was later accused of abuse.  I ranted, "But I did a criminal record and he was clear!"  Because criminal record checks get to the heart of whether someone has been convicted of wrongdoing, they are resisted in one breath and put on a pedastal in the next.  If you pass a criminal record check, you are good to go, right?  Maybe...maybe not.

Recently, another religious organization was in the news because a church worker was arrested for molestation.  The church representative repeatedly claimed surprise because a criminal record check came back negative when it was done a few years prior.  Yes, I have been there and said that, too.  Most church workers applying for volunteer positions do not have a criminal record because many abuse instances - and therefore abusers - are not reported.  If the abuser is not reported, he or she will not carry a record of arrest nor of conviction.  An organization should always pursue several steps of screening especially for any position when the applicant will spend time alone with youth.  Words of wisdom - don't rely on the criminal record check alone.  However, conduct a criminal record check at the end of a thorough process to show due diligence in the event an allegation surfaces later.

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The article seems to suggest that there are more steps of screening that will reveal who past abusers particularly for those who have not been convicted. It would be helpful to know what those steps are if indeed they exist. The perfect screening procedure does not exist. Will reference checks (presumably supplied by the volunteer) or personal interviews reveal something more?

I agree that the perfect screening procedure does not exist. However, if a tool is inadequate by itself (the criminal record check), then we should be willing to seek out other steps of screening. An application form can ask about an applicant's experience with other organizations. For example, was the applicant dismissed or terminated for misconduct? Interviews are another important screening step. During an interview, the applicant might describe his or her conduct with a child which could lead the interviewer to question the applicant's suitability to work with that age group. And references are not just about asking your best friends for a rosey review. Some friends or co-workers will share the concerns they have about an applicant if they are assured the source won't be shared with the applicant. The point to be made here is that we should do due diligence to assure parents and guests to our churches that we have taken reasonable steps to consider the appropriateness of each volunteer for a position. What do other people think?