New law updates background check requirements for volunteers, employees

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — New state rules clarifying background check requirements for university employees and volunteers overseeing children were signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on July 1.

For volunteers age 18 or older, background checks are required if they provide care, supervision, guidance or control of children and have routine interaction with children.

University employees who work with children are still required to obtain federal and state criminal history checks, as well as a child abuse clearance.

For both volunteers and university employees, all background check clearances must be recertified every five years under the new law, as opposed to every three years.

University employees whose contact with minors is limited to matriculated students enrolled at the institution or prospective students visiting campus are not required to undergo background checks under the new law.

Employees who serve as supervisors to or are responsible for a student in a co-op, internship or work-study program must undergo background checks and be in the student’s vicinity at regular intervals throughout the program.

“Our overall intent with the specific background clearance part of the child protection package was to help ensure that those who work or volunteer around our children do not have a history of abusing children,” said Rep. Kathy Watson, author of the legislation and chair of the House Children and Youth Committee, in a press release. “However, we fully recognize that we need to achieve a better balance between protecting children and not making the requirements for volunteers so onerous that the result is losing both volunteers and, consequently, programs beneficial to children.”

The new law moves the deadline for new volunteers to obtain clearances from July 1 to Aug. 25. Unchanged are the clearance deadlines for existing employees (Dec. 31, 2015) and existing volunteers (July 1, 2016). New employees must obtain clearances before starting employment.

Penn State's Office of Ethics and Compliance, in partnership with General Counsel, Risk Management and Human Resources, is currently conducting a thorough review of the changes in the law. Updated guidance as to the direction the University will take in ensuring that all new clearance requirements are met will be posted on the Ethics and Compliance website.

More information about Pennsylvania’s updated rules can be found on the Department of Human Services website at

Last Updated July 13, 2015