Don’t Let Volunteers Dictate Your Criminal Background Check Program

background check programEven after 20 years of violence prevention work, I am still occasionally surprised. This time it is not a criminal trying to slip through the cracks (I don’t think) but a management decision that has left me puzzled.  And a little worried. How would you handle a candidate for employment that did not like your background check program?  Is it up for debate?

I hope not.

So I was more than surprised last week when I learned of an organization that had made a decision to require comprehensive national criminal background checks of their volunteers reverse their decision after only 6 weeks.  So why did they reverse their decision so quickly?

Volunteer displeasure and resistance.  The potential volunteers did not like the policy change that required them to pay for the background check.

That is completely understandable.  Change is rarely popular and especially when it comes attached to a price tag.

However, cash-strapped organizations that serve children are making this same policy change every day.  It is becoming more the norm than the exception.

Yes, expect some push back from volunteer candidates.  But don’t anticipate your volunteer pool drying up.  It won’t.

Just be prepared for a little protest.

Also understand that if you articulate why you are making the change then the resistance will be disarmed.  Make it clear that the safety and security of children is your mission.

What volunteer believes the price of the safety and security of children is too high?  Very few.

And if they do, they will sound like the volunteer candidate who called our office several times last week complaining about our background screening process.  He was angry, arrogant and rude to our staff.

I regret that I was not here to take his calls (seriously).  He would not have found a shoulder to lean on nor would he have received an apology about our background screening program.

Mr. Angry Volunteer Candidate here is what I would have said to you:

“Didn’t your mother teach you anything?” (Okay, I probably would not have opened with that line.)

“Sir, if you want an overview of what we do and how we do it, no problem.  But I am not going to argue about whether you think this should be a policy or not.”

“Can I finish?”  Angry, arrogant and rude usually equals constant interruptions.  I-am-only-concerned-with –what-I -want mentality.

“Hey, have you ever held back tears while talking to a young child that has been raped?”

No response.

“I hope not.  It is awful.  I have a images of victimized children burned into my brain.  Kids who have been beaten, molested and even killed.  Their hollow eyes.  Eyes that scream why did this happen to me. Their fear.  I will carry these children…their names…their faces…I will carry them with me forever.”

“So Mr. Angry Volunteer (I would not say this but would like to), I guess you have a couple options.  You pay for the background check and volunteer.  Or you don’t.  It is nothing to get angry about.  You have options.  Sign the authorization or don’t.”

Displeasure with a volunteer fee will fade when parents....yes parents who are volunteering...understand that you have the absolute best interest of their child at heart.

If the resistance does not disappear for a handful, so be it.  There are two camps of candidates that may continue to resist the process:

  1. Those who have something to hide; or
  2. Those who think they are above the process.  Guess what…

Okay maybe a third candidate:

  1. Those who do not need to be volunteering with kids because they are not a quality role model.

Protecting children is not a debatable issue.  Dig your feet in and make that clear.  Changing direction sends the wrong message.  It says there are limits to how far you will go to protect a child.

Allowing volunteers to dictate your screening process exposes your organization to risk of a lawsuit.  Can you imagine testifying in court after a child is harmed that you switched to a comprehensive background check because what you were doing was too limited. Then disclose to the judge or jury you switched back because your volunteers did not want to pay for it.

Are you are about to adopt a volunteer background check program that requires the candidate to pay?  Contact us.  We can connect you to hundreds of organizations that have implemented a volunteer-funded screening program successfully.

Remember. I did not say you won’t hear some grumbling.  Have kids? Do they ever grumble at your rules that are in their best interest?

How do you feel about charging volunteers for background checks?  Come on, tell me what you think.