WXXI AM News

Background Checks Don't Guarantee Protection Against Sex Abusers

Jun 8, 2016

Credit freeimages.com/Erik Araujo

Senator Chuck Schumer is promoting bipartisan legislation to close what he calls a "gaping hole" in the federal law.

Schumer says the loophole prevents summer camps and other organizations that work with children from accessing FBI sex offender background checks for prospective employees and volunteers.

At Bivona Child Advocacy Center in Rochester, prevention education and outreach specialist Stefanie Szwejbka says while important, background checks don't guarantee a child's safety.      

"We do know that there are quite a few people out there in our communities that just basically haven't been caught that aren't part of that registry, so doing reference checks I think is almost more important than doing background checks ."

She recommends that employers do thorough personal reference checks, and ask people who have worked with or know the prospective employee some specific questions.         

"Is there anything about this person that would make you think their working with kids isn't the best idea? And that can be a simple yes or no answer." Szwejbka says employers can potentially thwart an applicant who poses a threat to children by putting them on notice that the organization is educated about all aspects of child safety.

Before parents enroll their children in a camp or other organization, Szwejbka says they should ask about safety policies and procedures and whether any adult employee or volunteer will have one-on-one access to a child. “If they do, what will that look like, and in what circumstances is that allowed at this camp, or is it not allowed?"

Bivona Child Advocacy Center offers workshops for adults who are interested in learning how to prevent child abuse and how to recognize offender behavior and report suspected abuse.