Trips to local museums, farms, colleges, and area businesses are a rite of passage for students. These field trips are a welcome break from their daily school routine and give kids a chance to do some real world learning. Field trips are often a way to increase parent involvement as many parents are asked to volunteer as chaperones for these outings.

Are Field Trips a Thing of the Past?

Some people, though, are worried that field trips, and parent volunteerism, could be stunted with the rise in laws or regulations requiring volunteer background checks. In the last five years, school districts across the country have begun re-examining their safety protocols, with background checks at the forefront. Things like mass school shootings and the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal certainly contributed to the trend, but Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners of which Active Screening is an accredited member, said that screening was common for employers 30 years ago, but the popularity of background checks has risen significantly in the last 15 years.

Pennsylvania is the state widely cited as the litmus test for protecting children by requiring background checks. But Pennsylvania is also ground zero for the controversy surrounding background checks and volunteerism.

The issue, at least according to this article, is that extracurriculars may have to be canceled because too many parents need background checks and either:

  • can’t get them in time
  • can’t afford them
  • feel they’re an invasion of privacy
  • don’t know how to get one

The Time Factor

It’s true that background checks take time. But maybe not as much as some parents fear. Turnaround time varies. Some companies will promise ‘instant’ results, but like anything else that sounds too good to be true, you should use caution around these service providers. Due to the careful nature of background checks and the collection of important and delicate
information, it’s important to know that most reliable background screening providers will turn results for you in two to three days. Active Screening conducts 80% of its criminal research in-house and still manages to complete the majority of background checks in 48 hours. Even better, Active Screening has a 97% customer retention rate so you know our clients are pleased with our services and our final results.

So… even if you only have a week’s notice to volunteer for your kindergartner’s field trip, you can still get your credentials in order with a complete background check.

The Money Factor

This is not so simple to answer. Pricing plans vary for lots of reasons – basic vs. in-depth checks, one-offs vs. bulk requests. The types of background reports that your school district requires may dictate how much money you need to spend.

You may find background checks provided for as little as $20 or as much as $100. The best thing you can do is do some research and talk with various providers like Active Screening who can tell you their pricing plans, but more importantly, explain why their services are best in class. Or, you can click here and request to see our pricing plans.

The Privacy Factor

By its very nature, a background check is an invasion of privacy. A screening company is verifying information to make sure it’s truthful and accurate and at the same time searching for past indecencies and indiscretions that may give an employer pause. It’s not that the screening agency is trying to dig up dirt, it’s just they have a responsibility to whoever has hired them to perform due diligence to prove you are who you say you are and that you’ve done what you say (or haven’t said) you’ve done.

What’s important to note in this discussion, however, is that it is completely, 100% legal for background screening firms to search for this information as long as compliance, privacy and hiring laws are followed. Most background screening companies are committed to operating at the highest standards and keeping your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) protected. Click here for a list of the most proactive firms (these are the ones like Active Screening who have taken a pledge to never off shore your PII).

And, when you think about the parents who will be chaperoning your own child on a field trip, wouldn’t you want to know that they passed a background check? By consenting to a check, that parent is in a way saying, “Protecting these children’s interests are more important than my own ego.”

The Knowledge Factor

You might think a simple Google search would turn up the results that you need. Yes, you will get a healthy dose of screening agencies, but not all screening agencies are created equal. We recommend finding an agency who is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). These screening agencies have gone through a rigorous approval process to earn this seal of approval and must have an impeccable track record in customer service, correct information, and tight turnaround time. Active Screening earned its accreditation by NAPBS. Also, do some research on your own to find out if any NAPBS-accredited agencies specialize in youth organization volunteer screening. Active Screening has customizable programs that can suit church groups, youth sports programs, non-profits, and virtually any other organization that relies on volunteers. Check out our online consultation service to see how we can help you.

Parents – we want to hear from you! How do you feel about the new screening regulations for volunteering? Will it change your mind about participating in field trips and other extracurricular activities? Leave us a comment – we might use it for a future blog post!

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