Guest Column - April 2006
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Forward Thinking on Background Checks

Association Guest Column: National Alliance For Youth Sports

By Sarah Christy


The most important elements in an efficient background check include:

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER AND NAME VERIFICATION. Obtain a copy of the potential volunteer's social security card. In verifying the social security number, you are ensuring accuracy in searching for the proper individual.

ADDRESS VERIFICATION FOR THE LAST SEVEN TO 10 YEARS. Start with making a copy of the applicant's current driver's license. An address verification is key to finding out where the individual has lived during this timeframe and which counties should be searched.

COUNTY COURTHOUSE SEARCH. Ninety-five percent of criminal convictions occur at the county level. If an organization conducts the search within the counties the applicant has lived, it has the best chance of finding past convictions.

SEX-OFFENDER REGISTRY SEARCH. Most states have some type of registry that is available to the public free for search. The FBI has a Web site that lists links to most states. Visit www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/cac/states.htm for a list of state links.


The Nine Steps of Background Screening

The National Alliance For Youth Sports has identified nine components of a thorough background screening process for youth sports volunteers:

A SCREENING POLICY MUST BE IN WRITING. Screening begins with a policy that requires all volunteers to go through the process—even if the prospective volunteer is "well-known" in the community.

PROVIDE JOB DESCRIPTIONS FOR EVERY POSITION. The job description should provide a detailed outline of the responsibilities and duties of the position and should communicate to the volunteer the organization's position and philosophy regarding youth sports.

COMPLETED APPLICATION FORMS SHOULD BE PROVIDED FOR ALL POSITIONS. Often, there are more organizations in need of volunteers than there are volunteers, leading those organizations to believe any volunteer will do—called "warm-body syndrome." Don't get caught by this.

A CONSENT/RELEASE FORM MUST BE SIGNED AND DATED. This form will protect your organization by having volunteers authorize the investigation of their backgrounds. Specifically, this form should state clearly to the volunteer that his/her background will be investigated, and that a criminal history check also may be conducted.

EVALUATE APPLICATION AND REVIEW REFERENCES, EMPLOYERS AND INFORMATION TO DETERMINE IF THE APPLICANT POSSESSES THE BASIC NECESSITIES FOR THE POSITION. Take the extra time needed to carefully complete this part of the process.

INTERVIEW THE APPLICANT. Try to use a systematic approach and develop a standard interview plan to save time and allow for consistency. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions.

CONDUCT A CRIMINAL HISTORY BACKGROUND CHECK. If resources are scarce, contact your local lawmakers and officials to find out ways they can aid you in this step. Some companies offer services to volunteer organizations for reduced fees.

REVIEW RESULTS AND PROVIDE CONTINUOUS OVERSIGHT OF VOLUNTEERS. An organization should decide how to evaluate screening results and determine what issues make a volunteer undesirable and then document this decision. Periodically evaluate a volunteer's performance.

PROVIDE TRAINING FOR ALL VOLUNTEERS AND HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE. This is a very important part of the process that will ensure volunteers are properly educated to work with children in the sports environment. Have volunteers pledge to uphold a code of ethics.