Background Checks Preventing Criminals from Volunteer Positions

Although often the news has information about background checks not finding criminal history on a particular person, this news story is about a background check stopping a criminal. The story involves the background check for Big Brothers Big Sisters of southwest Florida conducting a background check and bringing up the criminal history of Shernon James, a man accused of molesting a foreign exchange student this past April and, in 2005, being arrested on child pornography charges. Big Brothers Big Sisters claims to have very stringent background checks which start with an intake specialist who is trained to detect pedophiles by written exams, interviews, and background checks. The applicant needs to complete a long written application and submit five letters of reference, as well as a driver’s license and insurance cards, in addition to meeting an intake specialist. After all of this, the organization has all applicants fingerprinted for a nationwide criminal history background check.

Shernon, who had been a volunteer for organizations working with children, has his criminal history brought up and denied him access. Shernon, however, had been a volunteer at the YMCA previously, as his 2005 charge of child pornography possession had been expunged and the background check by the local YMCA did not detect this charge. As a volunteer at the YMCA, Shernon only had to submit to a local background check, as he was only a volunteer and not a staff member.

Previous posts have mentioned organizations for the most vulnerable – children, the elderly, and disabled – cutting background checks due to costs or hiring a worker or volunteer with criminal history. In the case of Big Brothers Big Sisters of southwest Florida, the organization has done the background check procedure correctly to prevent anyone with questionable history from interacting with children through their organization. Although the organization is for volunteers, volunteers should still be given a thorough background investigation before working with children.