Good news for Mercer County volunteers

Gov. Tom Wolf has heard concerns that I and others have raised about the financial burdens placed on our volunteers by a state law enacted last year, and will waive state fees for mandated clearances and background checks.

The Child Protective Services Law was one of 23 laws enacted in 2014 to improve how Pennsylvania responds to child abuse. This week’s action by the governor removes the financial burden from volunteers while preserving the law’s intent – to protect our kids.

This is a great step to help volunteers who give their time and hard work to help the community. It is proof that we can protect kids and help our organizations that depend on volunteers.

The law requires volunteers who have direct contact with kids to obtain a child abuse clearance from the Department of Human Services and a criminal background check from the Pennsylvania State Police. Those transactions carried a fee of $10 apiece.

The changes take effect July 25 – if you request a background check before then, the fees will still apply.

In addition, people seeking employment for work with children and others required under the law will still be assessed fees for the clearances, but at a reduced cost of $8 each.

I also want you to know that the state House is currently considering legislation which I have co-sponsored (House Bill 1276) which would ease the burdens created for many organizations by the Child Protective Services Law while still protecting children. It is important that we eliminate unnecessary barriers for volunteers, particularly those who are not directly responsible for the welfare of children or who are engaged in one-time activities.  

If you need clearances, the staff at my Hermitage office can help you. The office is located at 2213 Shenango Valley Freeway, Unit 2-E, and the phone number is 724-981-4655. You may also go to www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis to create an account and apply electronically.