Are Volunteer Background Checks Necessary?
At first thought, any program with volunteers might balk at conducting background checks on its volunteers. After all, putting someone through a background check seems like a fairly severe and demeaning thing to do. After all aren’t these folks volunteering through a sense of civic duty, community pride, or just a sense of fulfillment through service?
Not necessarily. If you think about it, what easier way is there for a perverted person to get close to a young person, a potential target, that through volunteering at an organization that serves this demographic?
If a volunteer who does the books for an organization as small as a little league needs quick cash to pay off personal debts or finance a lifestyle more likely to embezzle from that organization or from his “real” job, which is subject to a lot more oversight and trust is not assumed.
There have been numerous instances of volunteers arrested, even over the last several months to indicate that this is a widespread problem. Just Google “volunteer arrested” to take a look at some examples. Age doesn’t seem to restrict the activity, as suspects as old as 75 have been recently accused of having illicit activity with underage children. Gender doesn’t seem to matter either, as there have been several examples of both middle and high school female teachers having flings with teenage boys.
Unfortunately, many times when a victim is harmed by a volunteer, it is the organization that is found liable for either not being aware that the volunteer had a propensity for this type of activity or by not supervising the volunteer closely enough to allow an opportunity to occur.
The best way to accept a volunteer is the same way you would employ someone at your business, and that is to utilize an employment screening process commensurate with the position. Getting an address history, conducting criminal background checks in the appropriate jurisdictions, credit reports for financial positions, and driving records for those that will be operating vehicles in the performance of their duties as volunteers.
Not all volunteers have to accepted; use a critical eye, ask the right questions, and conduct a thorough background check on all volunteers.