safe volunteer

Why Do You Need My SSN for Volunteer Background Checks?

volunteer-background-checksI will admit that I don’t hand over my social security number very easily.  I want to know why somebody needs it and how they are going to safeguard it. So I am sympathetic to volunteers being nervous about providing their SSN for volunteer background checks.   They have a right to ask a few questions.

Yes, there are specific laws that require you to provide your SSN like to the IRS for tax purposes or to your employer for wage and tax reporting.

I have been asked several times recently if it is legal to ask for an SSN as part of a background check.  The simple answer is yes.

Now, does a volunteer have to give their SSN to an organization as part of their criminal background check process?  Absolutely not.

Huh?  That is right.  You have a right to ask and they have a right to say no.

The Social Security Administration provides legal requirements to provide your social security numberVolunteer background checks are not listed as a legal requirement.

You need to read through the entire page.  Just because you are not required to give it does not mean the organization cannot ask for it.  It is not illegal to ask.

The second to last paragraph sums up the debate:

”If a business or other enterprise asks you for your Social Security number, you can refuse to give it. However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for which your number was requested.”

So what does that mean for a volunteer who refuses to provide their SSN as part of your screening process?

  1. You cannot require them to provide it;
  2. They have no discrimination claim; and
  3. You do NOT have to allow them to volunteer if they refuse.

It is no different than if a volunteer refused to sign an authorization for the background check.  You cannot make them.  They have a right to refuse.  But you also have a right to refuse them as a volunteer if they will not submit to your policies and procedures.

I do think it is important for our partners to articulate why the SSN is an important part of the volunteer screening program.  Our volunteers have a right to know how their SSN will be handled and used.

Quite honestly, we cannot conduct a quality volunteer background checks without the SSN.  The social security number:

  1. Identifies the volunteer.
  2. Helps determine correct spelling of name(s).  Without the SSN a volunteer with something to hide could alter the spelling of their name, change their name, etc.  How would you know?
  3. Identifies any other names a person has been known by.  Without SSN we are relying on the victim to provide this.  What if they have unsuitable criminal records under another undisclosed name?
  4. Identifies address history so we know where to search at the county level.

The bottom line is you should require the SSN as part of your background screening program.  It is simply not worth the risk of missing a serious criminal record.  Also spend a little time educating your volunteers why the SSN is important and your commitment to safeguarding their sensitive information.

Join us for a free webinar:  How to Conduct Comprehensive Volunteer Background Checks

Healthcare Background Checks: How Can Sex Offenders Volunteer?

healthcare background checks“The Richard Roudebush VA Hospital in Indianapolis has 10 convicted sexual predators volunteering,” stated the Fox 59 news reporter on the TV as I walked into the bedroom. Ok, you have my attention.  I had just spent the past two hours right next door to the VA Hospital on the IUPUI campus watching the final game of the Pro Am Basketball League Tourney (probably the last glimpse for a while of pro players with the NBA lockout).

How could that be?   The Veterans Administration does not require healthcare background checks?

I had spent several hours earlier in the day discussing the new Indiana Professional Licensing Board background check requirements.  The push behind the new law was to make sure healthcare professionals in Indiana had undergone a thorough criminal background check.

Although, I don’t think we can expect high quality healthcare background checks since the IPLA requires a check of the FBI’s database.  The same database that was under fire last week during the EEOC meeting on the use of criminal records by employers.  The EEOC had exposed a long held truth that the FBI database is terribly incomplete and may contain only 50% of all criminal records.

Roulette background checks.  Well, that is another post.

The truth is the new law in Indiana only applies to new licenses.  It does not apply to:

  1. Renewal of license
  2. Unlicensed employees in a healthcare facility; or
  3. Volunteers

There is no requirement, it appears, for a volunteer at a VA Hospital to undergo a criminal background check.  I tried first thing this morning to download the volunteer application off the Roudebush VA Hospital website.  No luck.  A redirect just brought me back to an information page.

The response from the VA hospital was this was a rehabilitative program.

Say what?  Show me one shred of evidence that even indicates we might be able to rehabilitate a sex offender.  I spoke recently with a director of a statewide sex offender management program that contracts with a state department of corrections and I asked her point blank:  Is there any program that is effective with working with sex offenders.

She said no.

So how does a VA hospital think it can rehabilitate a sex offender by allowing them to volunteer?  And not only volunteer, roam the hallways and allow access to thousands of vulnerable patients, staff and visitors.

Frightening.  Well, negligent is the correct word.

The EEOC rekindled a huge debate on minimizing the use of criminal background checks because it has an adverse impact on ex-offenders.  Did their crime have an adverse impact on the victim?

The State of Indiana just passed legislation that makes it easier to “wipe clean” all misdemeanors and Class D felonies that are non-violent.

So the pendulum has swung back from the post-9-11 safety and security consciousness.  Where is all of this heading?  Will felons and sex offenders be our next protected class (maybe if the EEOC has their way)?

The real question is, does this make you feel safer?

Who Should Be Exempted From Background Checks for Volunteers?

background checks for volunteersAbsolutely nobody. Not a single person should be exempt from your background checks for volunteers.

“But, the volunteer is a police officer” or insert many other professionals and this is statement I hear frequently.  Sometimes it is a statement made weakly, that more closely resembles a question.  They are looking for validation for their weakly held position.  I still have time to educate.

However, all too often it is a bold statement.  A confirmation that they have adopted this policy and that is the end of the discussion.

Let me state confidently that there is no profession immune from criminals.  Yesterday, the Huffington Post ran an article:  Joshua Carrier, Former Colo. Springs Cop, Faces 189 Counts of Felony Child Sex Assault

Did you catch that number?  189 counts.  More than 22 young victims.  And the list will grow as the investigation continues.

Did you look at his photo?  Scary?  No way.  Very normal looking.  Don’t fool yourself and think you can screen these predators out with a look or intuition.

Did I mention he was a School Resource Officer, wrestling coach, coach for the Police Athletic League and Youth Advisor with the Explorer’s Scout Program.

People who harm children seek access to children.

Positions of power and authority are extremely attractive to people who are interested in abusing.  I know this first hand as a former detective.  I have investigated and arrested way too many police officers.

Research has shown that the 3 most attractive professions to an abuser are:

  1. Law Enforcement
  2. Military
  3. Clergy

Let me digress for a second and say I love police officers.  Literally.  My wife was an officer for 20 years.  My dad was an Indiana State Police Officer for 35 years.  My grandfather was a police officer.  My younger brother is a police officer.  One of my cousin’s is a police officer.  If history holds true, one of my kids will become a police officer.

However, when someone feels they are above the process this should be a red flag.  It could be a sense of entitlement or worse, it could be they have something to hide.

When we allow someone to bypass our policies we:

  • Expose our organization to risk of harm;
  • Expose our organization to potential legal claims of unfair treatment

So we should not allow a police officer, judge, doctor, lawyer or anybody else to bypass our background checks for volunteers policy.  Our response:  we treat everybody the same and cannot make exceptions to the policy.  Public safety professionals should respect this.

One of my good buddies called recently and said he just went through our background check process so he could consult with a school district.  Oh, I forgot to mention he is a retired FBI agent and former member of the FBI’s elite worldwide hostage negotiations team?

He had no problem with the background check.  Although he was a little miffed I was going to make a buck off of him.