A Letter to Volunteers
Working with Children at
Grace United Church of Christ
Thank you for your efforts in helping children find faith at Grace. We want to outline some new requirements for volunteers recently enacted by the State Legislature in an effort to improve reporting and prevention of child abuse. There are two specific requirements that apply to those volunteering in churches.
First, volunteers are now considered mandatory reporters of child abuse. This means that if a volunteer suspects a child has been abused, that volunteer must personally file a report with the state. This may seem a bit difficult or even scary, but training is available. The state has developed an online training course on recognizing and reporting child abuse. While not required, it is highly recommended that every volunteer take this course. It is a relatively simple course taking no more than an hour of your time. When finished you will be given a certificate that can be put on file with the church. The course can be found at http://www.reportabusepa.pitt.edu. If you do not have a computer or need assistance in completing this course, there will be a workshops that you can attend. Let us know of your interest.
Second, all volunteers working with children are now required to have several background checks every five years.
Directions for completing the background checks are at the bottom of this email.
Please understand, this email is in no way suggesting that there is a problem with child abuse at Grace Church or that any of our volunteers are not trustworthy, loving, and dedicated individuals who care about children. It is simply the law. While these laws were passed to protect children, meeting these requirements will also protect you as an individual and Grace Church in the event an accusation is ever made. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this matter. Do not hesitate to contact any of us if you have questions.
Dan Trimmer, Consistory President
Bonnie J. Whittier, Pastor
Helpful Questions and Answers
Question: How do I report child Abuse?
Answer: CHILDLINE 1-800-932-0313 by voice. This oral report must be made immediately. This oral report must be followed up by an electronic report at
http://www.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov within 48 hours.
If the electronic report is made immediately, child abuse does not have to be reported to the CHILDLINE.
Q. Am I required to get training on the signs of child and how to report it?
Answer: You are not required, but it is recommended and helpful. The easiest and fastest way to take the training on recognizing the signs of child abuse and reporting it is with the free online training course at:
This is also the site where one can report child abuse.
To take the training, simply go on to the website and set up a free account. You will need to enter your email address to verify the account. The course takes a little over an hour. You can do this in a series of shorter sessions as you have the time. Please print out the certificate verifying that you have completed the course and drop it off at the church office. You can also print the certificate as a pdf file and email it to Linda DeMaio at our church office. Linda will print this certificate and also keep the pdf file in the computer. The training takes a little over an hour, but you can spend a lot longer time learning more about the law if you like.
Question: I would like to take the training, but I do not have a computer?
Answer: For those of you, who would like to take the training, we will be having workshops a few times a year. We will post the times, dates, and locations. Once posted, please let us know a few weeks in advance if you will be attending. All of this is free.
Question: Can I help with the training workshop?
Answer: If you are computer wise, would like to share your laptop computer for a workshop, or would simply like to assist others experiencing the online training, we can use your assistance.
Question: If I do the online training on my own, when does the church need the certificates that are printed out at the end of the training session?
Answer: June 1, 2016.
Question: If I am a volunteer, why do I need background clearances?
Answer: The law requires that all volunteers working directly with children have the following background checks.
Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearances (CY113). The $10.00 Fee has been waived for all volunteers starting on July 25, 2015.
Pennsylvania Criminal Record Checks (SP4-164). The $10.00 Fee has been waived for all volunteers starting on July 25, 2015.
If you have been a resident of Pennsylvania ten years or more, you do not need the FBI background check, but are required to sign a statement that you have resided in PA more than ten years and have not been convicted of any crimes relating to the abuse of children. We can email you a copy of this statement and you can drop off the signed copy at the office or you can simply stop in at the office to sign. You can find it in a link on the “This Week at Grace” email.
If you have been a resident of PA less than ten years, you will also need the following background check.
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Background Fingerprint Checks $27.50.
Questions What will background checks cost?
As of July 25, 2015, the state of PA has waived the fees for the two state clearances. If you have been a resident in PA less than ten years, you will need to obtain the FBI clearance. This costs is $27.50. You can pay for it yourself. If you like the church will reimburse this expense.
Question: What is involved in my obtaining background clearances?
You can go to the following websites and obtain them. You can pay for them and have the church reimburse you. Many of us are paying for them ourselves.
If you have been in Pennsylvania ten years or longer, you need the Child Abuse History Clearance and the State Police Criminal Record Check. The $10.00 Fee has been waived for all volunteers starting on July 25, 2015.
Child Abuse History Clearance Online: https://www.compass.state.pa.us/CWIS
Creating an account and submitting your clearance application online will give you immediate access to your results or the status of your results if your results cannot be processed immediately.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE CRIMINAL RECORD CHECK INSTRUCTIONS
Below is the link to the Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History website and apply for their criminal record check online with the Pennsylvania State Police at: https://epatch.state.pa.us/Home.jsp
If you are an employee at Grace Church you need the FBI Criminal Back Ground Check.
You also need the FBI Criminal Background Check if you are a volunteer and have not lived in Pennsylvania ten years or more.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK INSTRUCTIONS
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is utilizing Cogent Systems to process fingerprint-based FBI criminal background checks. The fingerprint based background check is a multiple step process. For more information and to begin the registration process, go to www.pa.cogentid.com//index_dpw.htm. For question about your FBI Clearance, please contact the FBI/Adam Walsh Unit at 717-783-6211 or 1-877-371-5422.
What if I do not have a computer?
Stop by the church office, you may need to be present to electronically sign the forms.
You will need your social security number.
If you need the FBI background check, you will need to be fingerprinted at any Lincoln Intermediate Units (LIU). All locations are open on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Cut-off time is 3:45 PM. As part of the registration process, each person will receive a claim number. Bring it with you to the LIU prior to having fingerprints taken. No appointments are necessary. It is our understanding that the LIU might have some evening appointments available for a limited time.
Question: How often must background checks be renewed?
We must update your background clearances every five years.
Question: How often are we recommending you to take the training recognizing the signs of child abuse and the ways to report it?
Answer: Every five years
Question: Can I transfer my clearances from another agency or from my employment?
Answer: Yes, If you have clearances or have PA state certified training in recognizing the sign of child abuse and reporting it through some other agency or your employer, we can accept copies of these as long as they are newer than 36 months old. We would ask you to update us with the newest clearances when you renew them.
If you have obtained the clearances as a volunteer, you cannot transfer them to an employer, but you can transfer those from an employer to use for a volunteer position.
Question: Do you suspect Child Abuse at Grace Church?
Answer: No! We know of none ever happening. At the same time, we have been working vigilantly on protecting our children for many years. We officially started our Safe Sanctuary program in 2008. We have revised our 2008 policies to stay current with the new laws effective December 31, 2014 and the revision made in June 2015 to keep children and those, who work with them safe. As we said earlier, we have every confidence that the volunteers at Grace UCC are loving, caring, and always seeking to protect our children.