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PA Act 153: New Pennsylvania Background Check Requirements

Posted by Ryan Howard on Fri, May 29, 2015


In October of 2014, the state of Pennsylvania passed Act 153 requiring that all persons (14 and older) with direct contact with children must have state and/or federal clearances every 36 months.

**This post has been updated. See the update at the bottom of the post.**

This new law will impact churches, child care facilities, nonprofits, schools, youth sports or any state operated organizations with a responsibility for children. While this could be an overwhelming initiative for some, any regulations or laws pertaining to background checks can be broken down into laymen's language.

Reasons for the Act

In the wake of the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, the state began looking closer into Sandusky's children's charity, The Second Mile. Though other laws had been passed, the state legislature wanted to strength the protection of children. The new law expands requirements to any organizations that have direct contact with children. All volunteers, from Sunday school teachers, foster parents and youth sports coaches, and paid employees, like teachers and daycare providers, must have state and federal clearance to have contact with children. 

Necessary Background Checks

Every school or daycare employee, as well as volunteers for other organizations, must have current background checks. The background checks necessary for clearance with the state of Pennsylvania are:

  • Child Abuse clearance 
  • Criminal History
  • Federal Criminal history (submitted through FBI fingerprinting) 

Because each employee or volunteer may have had background checks in the past, the state may require that all three background checks are retaken when one is due for renewal. Requirements for volunteers may also be different if the volunteer has lived in the state of Pennsylvania for the previous 10 years or if they are only volunteering for less than 30 days. 

If a background check reveals any convictions at any time that are prohibited by the Child Protective Services Law, the employee or volunteer will not be cleared. 

Key Dates

When does this program start?

  • The PA Act 153 took effect for employees working with children on December 31, 2014.
  • Prospective volunteers will be required to obtain PA Act 153 Clearance on July 1, 2015.

Cost of a Background Check

While employers cover the cost of background checks to paid employees, many nonprofit organizations struggle with the cost of screening every volunteer. The good news is that volunteer background checks can be affordable. With a comprehensive understanding of the complicated Pennsylvania law, businesses can have an awareness of what is required in order to stay compliant with PA Act 153. 

Update: The fee for Volunteers ($8 for PA State Police, and $10 for Child Abuse Clearance) will be waived, and the required checks will be FREE effective July 15, 2015 News Article

At VeriFirst, we help both employers and nonprofits with background screening. 

To request more information about our PA Act 153 compliance solutionsContact VeriFirst.

Contact VeriFirst

Topics: Types of Background Checks, Employment Background Screening