Recent Amendments to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law Background Certifications

On July 1, 2015, Governor Wolf signed into law House Bill 1276, now known as Act 15 of 2015, which helps clarify the requirements pertaining to criminal history background clearances (now called certifications) for employees and volunteers.  Below is an overview of some of the major changes, as a result of Act 15:

Employee Background Certifications

Administrative and Support Personnel – The requirement for school employees to have background certifications does not apply to administrative or other support personnel unless the administrative or other support personnel has direct contact with children.

Deadline and Renewal of Certifications – The certification renewal deadline for employees has been changed from 36 months (3 years) to 60 months (5 years) and is from the date of the employee’s oldest certification.

Volunteer Background Certifications Prohibited – An employer, administrator, supervisor or other person responsible for employment decisions is prohibited from accepting a certification that was obtained for volunteer purposes.

Volunteer Background Certifications

Volunteers Requiring Certification – Volunteers applying for or holding an unpaid position as a volunteer at a school  who is a person responsible for the child’s welfare or having direct volunteer contact with children.

Direct Volunteer Contact – Direct volunteer contact is defined as the care, supervision, guidance or control of children and routine interaction with children.

Waiver of Fees for State Background Certifications – Background Certification fees for state certifications (Child Line and State Police) are waived for volunteers beginning July 25, 2015.

Federal Criminal History Certifications – Volunteers are not required to provide federal criminal history certifications if: (1) they have been a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the entirety of the previous 10 year period; or (2) if not a resident of the Commonwealth during the entirety of the previous 10 year period, have received a federal criminal history certification at any time since establishing residency in the Commonwealth and provides a copy of the certification to the person responsible for the selection of volunteers.

Deadline and Renewal of Certifications – If a volunteer does not have the required background certification, was not previously required to have certification, or his/her current certification is older than 60 months (5 years), he/she must obtain the required certification by July 1, 2016.  A first time volunteer requires certifications by August 25, 2015.

Remaining Issues

Definition of School Employee – Act 15 school employee definition excludes administrative or other support personnel, who do not have direct contact with children.  However, Section 111 of the School Code requires all school employees and independent contractors and their employees, who have direct contact with children, to obtain state and federal criminal history reports.

Age of Prospective School Employee’s Certifications – Despite the new portability and 5 year renewal provisions in Act 15, Section 111 of the School Code requires that state and federal criminal history reports submitted by prospective employees be no more than one (1) year old.