Penn State Scandal Highlights Importance of Background Checks for Volunteer Programs

We would all like to think people who are committed to volunteerism are altruistic souls who will help keep children safe. Some predators, however, are drawn to the types of volunteer work that will bring them into contact with children. The recent Penn State child sex abuse scandal highlights this fact and demonstrates precisely why criminal background checks for volunteer programs are an important tool to make sure children remain safe in their after-school activities.

Sandusky Had a Prior Record

You’ve probably heard about Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky being charged with 40 counts of child abuse recently. But did you know that Sandusky had been under investigation prior to this?

In fact, a criminal background check of Sandusky caused Juniata College to deny him a volunteer coaching position in 2010. Juniata College was being properly careful by performing criminal background checks on every volunteer, regardless of how well-known or well-liked they might be. Proper screening on the part of Penn State officials would have turned up the same information – and possibly prevented a world of hurt for the families involved.

When the Predator is in Charge

Child predators often do not think of themselves as dangerous, and therefore they do not avoid situations where they will be tempted to victimize children. It is up to volunteer program administrators to always employ criminal background checks to make sure these people do not come into contact with children.

Unfortunately, the current counts of child abuse of which Sandusky has been accused stem from incidents involving children served by a charity that Sandusky himself founded, The Second Mile, which serves at-risk kids. In this case, the predator was himself the volunteer administrator who would typically be responsible for ensuring criminal background checks are utilized. This is quite a scary situation, and one most parents would not expect.

The only way for an organization or institution avoid such issues in the future is to require a criminal background check on every single person who works there, no matter how high the position or famous the individual. A criminal background check is harmless to people with no criminal history and serves only to protect those who provide valuable services to children and youths everywhere.

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