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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: May 20, 2015 09:47 AM
From: Representative Katharine M. Watson
To: All House members
Subject: Co-Sponsorship of Legislation - Clarification of 2013 - 2014 Changes to the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL)
I will soon introduce legislation that will clarify and make more explicit provisions in the statute enacted last session which requires employees and adult volunteers who work with children to obtain criminal background check clearances and child abuse clearances.

In an effort to clear up ambiguous aspects of the statute and to address concerns expressed by numerous volunteer-based organizations and other entities from across the Commonwealth that are affected by the new law, staff from the House and Senate, together with the Department of Human Services, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Department of Education and the Administration have spent the last several months developing this amendatory legislation.

The intent of this legislation is to more clearly define who is subject to the requirements, and, where possible, to make those requirements less onerous for adult volunteers who work with children. The objective is to strike a better balance between protecting children and not making the requirements for volunteers so onerous that the result is losing both volunteers and consequently programs that are beneficial to children.

The key provisions in this legislation include:
  • Changing the definition of “direct contact” to mean that an individual provides care, supervision, guidance or control of children; AND has routine interaction with children. The current definition in law uses the word “or” instead of “and”. Changing the definition will significantly narrow the universe of individuals who are required to obtain the background checks.

  • Adding a definition for the term “routine interaction,” defining that term as “regular, repeated, and continual contact that is integral to a person’s employment or volunteer responsibilities.

  • Permitting volunteers who are residents of the Commonwealth, but have not resided in Pennsylvania for the entirety of the previous 10-year period to obtain the required FBI criminal history background check only once upon establishing residency. Current law requires those individuals to obtain an FBI background check clearance every three years until they reach 10 consecutive years of residency in the Commonwealth.

  • Exempting minor employees (ages 14 to 17) from obtaining the FBI criminal history background check if the minor has been a resident of the Commonwealth for the previous 10-year period and the minor and the minor’s legal guardian affirm that the minor is not disqualified from serving in the position under the list of prohibited offenses in existing law.

  • Making the portability/transferability of the background check clearances applicable to employees who are employed in more than one paid position in which they work directly with children, just as those clearances are portable/transferable for volunteers volunteering for multiple organizations under current law. Current law requires employees to obtain separate sets of clearances for each paid position they hold.

  • Stipulating the actual calendar dates by which employees and volunteers must be in compliance with the background check clearance requirements.

  • Correcting a number of other inconsistencies in the amendment to the CPSL during the 2013-14 legislative session to better reflect the intent of the General Assembly.

While we cannot fix every complaint that members of the House have heard since the passage of the 2013-14 amendments, I do believe that we can (and should) address the vast majority of them. It is my intention to introduce this legislation in the very near future; and, shepherd the bill through the process to the Governor’s desk with alacrity.

I urge you to add your name to the list of cosponsors.

Introduced as HB1276