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Legislation First Introduced By Schumer Will Unlock Database For Summer Camps & Other Organizations To Access Fed Background Check On New Employees and Volunteers 

Schumer Says Day Camps, Afterschool Programs Will Now Have The Ability To Conduct Sex Offender Background Checks On Prospective Employees To Protect Children 

Schumer: Camps and Child Care Org Access To The FBI Database Will Help Keep Our Children Safe 

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced the recently passed federal spending bill includes legislation that would, for the first time, close the gaping hole in current federal law that prevents non-profit organizations like summer camps, after-school programs, and other children’s organizations from gaining access to federal sex offender background checks on new employees and volunteers. The bill was signed into law this past Friday.  Schumer, who was the original author of the bill, has championed its passage since 2009. Schumer said the new law will finally close a loophole, in which youth-serving organizations, including summer camps, daycare centers, charity organizations, only have access to New York State’s criminal database. Schumer said the passage of this bill into law is the next step in ensuring day camps and other organizations gain vital access to the FBI sex offender database, which is widely considered the most accurate and complete criminal database. Oftentimes criminal activity is committed outside the state and pertinent information could be missing from a state’s database, so this new law will greatly increase vetting for organizations and summer camps. 

“There is nothing more important than keeping our children safe from harm, and this just-passed legislation does exactly that by closing a serious gap in federal law that makes it hard for afterschool programs, summer camps, day cares and other child-serving organizations to fully screen their paid and volunteer applicants. These groups are tasked with ensuring the safety of children day in and day out and should never have any difficulty when it comes to accessing the FBI background checks they need to ensure dangerous predators are not allowed anywhere near our kids,” said Senator Schumer. “I am glad my colleagues heeded my calls to pass this commonsense, bi-partisan legislation because parents deserve the peace of mind knowing that their children are in good hands when they drop them off at camp and other afterschool programs.”

Schumer explained many organizations and programs rely heavily on volunteers and employees to provide services and care to children. These individuals coach soccer games, mentor young people, run youth camps and are involved with children in many other ways. It’s estimated that over 15 million adults nationwide volunteer for education groups or youth programs. Up until now, these organizations did not have access to the FBI database.

Previously, according to Schumer, the current system of obtaining a background check for child-serving groups was not nearly as accessible as it should have been, particularly when it comes to out-of-state records. Only some states allow a range of youth-serving organizations to access FBI searches, but New York is not one of them. Even when those searches are available, they can be cost-prohibitive and time-consuming for summer camps and organizations on a budget. Schumer said this discouraged many groups from obtaining necessary background checks. Under the previous statute, an organization had to apply for a background check through its state for each individual employee. This bill’s passage is the first step to increasing access to volunteer and employee records.

Currently, in New York State, there are two ways to get access to background checks: An individual can get access to their own criminal history records by requesting them from the state and paying a fee. Alternatively, a mentoring organization, like summer camp, can register with the state to get access to state fingerprint checks. Notably, though, this will only involve an individual’s New York records. According to the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Service, there were 17,117 registered sex offenders in Upstate New York as of June 2017. As of 2010, however, over 40 percent of the individuals with criminal records had committed an offense in a state other than where they were applying to volunteer, meaning that a state-only search would not have found relevant criminal records. Schumer noted that an applicant to be a camp counselor, for example, could have been convicted of an assault in Ohio, or committed a sex crime in Florida, and there would be no record of it in New York’s database.

Schumer said that with the passage of this bill, individuals will be provided with an opportunity to challenge the accuracy and completeness of their records with the FBI and are ensured that the privacy of their records will be protected. This bill is entirely paid for by fees from the entities seeking background checks and requires no new authorizations or appropriations. In addition, this bill does not impose any new or unfunded mandates on the states.