Feature Article - June 2008
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Get 'em Active, Get 'em Outside

Checking Them Out
Background Checks Prevalent for Park District Employees

The majority of people working for park and recreation department respondents were volunteers. On average, park respondents said their organizations currently employed 86.4 volunteers, a number expected to grow by 21.4 percent to 104.9 on average by 2011.

Working with volunteers raises management issues for many respondents. While some say "you get what you pay for," in parks and recreation programs and facilities, it is imperative to work with well-qualified volunteers, since public safety and perception can become real problems.

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) launched a program called Operation TLC2, a national initiative aimed to "advance the leadership role of parks and recreation in their effort to make their communities safer by implementing national guidelines for properly qualifying and credentialing volunteers."

Partnering with leading industry experts, the NRPA has signed up a number of Charter Organizations in the initiative, who then work with the NRPA's partners to conduct background checks and provide photo identification of volunteers to meet recommended guidelines.

In its recommendations, NRPA states that "regardless of the volunteer's responsibilities, NRPA recommends that all volunteers be screened as though they were applying for a paid position. The time, energy and financial investment of prevention strategies such as conducting a proper background screening, represents a fraction of the impact incidents such as sex abuse, violence, neglect or other crimes and abuses can have on your participants, organization and community."

In fact, nearly three-quarters (74.8 percent) of respondents to this year's survey said their organizations require background checks for some of their employees.

For more information on the NRPA's initiatives, visit www.nrpa.org.