As congregations continue to implement the new Pennsylvania child protection laws, Franconia Mennonite Conference is working to develop resources for the congregations to be available on FranconiaConference.org. While policy changes and trainings are required, under the new law, the most immediate item needed is clearances on employees and volunteers who have “direct contact” with children.
Who needs clearances?
All employees age 14 and older and volunteers over the age of 18 who have “direct contact” with a child or children. A child is defined by the law as anyone under the age of 18. Direct contact can be defined as those acting in lieu of or on behalf of a parent or guardian, someone providing care, guidance, supervision and or has routine interaction.
For Franconia Mennonite Conference congregations, individuals needing clearances include:
- All credentialed leaders
- Sunday School Teachers and assistants
- Nursery volunteers
- Any childcare worker during special events or service times
- Youth sponsors/ leaders
- Chaperones for events
What clearances need to be obtained?
All individuals requiring clearances will need to complete the:
- Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Record Check (SPA-164)
- Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance
If the individual is paid for their position OR has lived outside of Pennsylvania in the past 10 years, then they are required to complete the:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Background Check which is processed through Cogent.
It is expected that if an individual has lived in Pennsylvania for the last 10 years and/or is applying for a volunteer (unpaid) position that they would:
- sign a “swear and affirm” document as they are not required to complete the FBI background check.
Jesus welcomes a child with open arms to sit with him and says in Matthew 18:5, “whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” Through this we see that the act of providing nurturing spaces for children is an especially holy act. For this welcome to be truly extended to children in the context of our congregations, our churches must be places of refuge and safety. Completing the clearance process for congregational and conference volunteers and staff is not just a compliance with the laws of Pennsylvania: it is a way to live out our calling in Christ to bless, welcome, and nurture children.
For additional information on clearances required under the Pennsylvania Child Protection laws, visit Keep Kids Safe PA: Clearances. Stay tuned to Intersectings and FranconiaConference.org for more resources and information to come.