Frequently Asked Questions

  • FAQ

    Which volunteers need to obtain clearances?

    Any adult applying for an unpaid position as a volunteer responsible for the welfare of a child or having direct contact with children. 

    What is the definition of child?

    For purposes of clearances, a child is an individual under 18 years of age.

    How is direct contact with children defined?

    Direct contact with children is defined in § 6303 (relating to definitions) as the care, supervision, guidance or control of children or routine interaction with children. 

    Which clearances are needed?

    All prospective volunteers must obtain the following clearances:

      • Report of criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police
      • Child Abuse History Clearance from the Department of Human Services (Child Abuse)
      • A fingerprint-based federal criminal history submitted through the Pennsylvania State Police or its authorized agent

    What is the renewal requirement for clearances?

    All volunteers are required to obtain clearances every 60 months. Timelines for renewed clearances are based upon the date of each individual clearance. If an individual or agency elected to renew all clearances at the same time, the date of the oldest clearance rather than the most recent would be used. 

    If you are a new volunteer, you need to submit certification prior to the commencement of service.

    How do I obtain clearances?

    The Child Abuse, PSP and Federal clearances can all be applied and paid for electronically. The federal clearance also requires a fingerprint submission. All necessary instructions and links to apply for these clearances can be found via How to Obtain Clearances.

    Is the use of a third-party vendor to process clearances acceptable?

    Third-party vendors may be used to process Child Abuse, PSP and Federal clearances using the steps established above. They are not permitted to conduct background checks or clearances through other databases in lieu of the steps outlined above. In addition, persons responsible for the selection of volunteers remain responsible for selection decision based upon the information obtained.

    How much do clearances cost?

    The Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Record Check and Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance cost nothing for volunteers. The Federal Criminal Background Check is $23.25 as of February 2024.

    Who pays for clearances?

    The volunteer is responsible for paying the cost of the required clearances.

    Are there any other requirements? 

    If a volunteer is arrested for or convicted of an offense that would constitute grounds for denying participation in a program, activity or service, or is named as a perpetrator in a founded or indicated report, the volunteer must provide the administrator or their designee with written notice not later than 72 hours after the arrest, conviction or notification that the person has been listed as a perpetrator in the statewide database. A volunteer who willfully fails to disclose information as required above commits a misdemeanor of the third degree and shall be subject to discipline up to and including termination or denial of a volunteer position.

    What is the provisional clearance requirement for volunteers?

    Volunteers may serve on a provisional basis for a single period not to exceed 30 days if the volunteer is in compliance with the clearance standards under the law of the jurisdiction where the volunteer is domiciled. Is the person responsible for acceptance of volunteers required to keep a copy of my clearances? Yes, pursuant to § 6344 (b.1), the employer, administrator, supervisor or other person responsible for employment decisions or acceptance of the individual to serve in any capacity requiring clearances, shall maintain copies of the required information and require the individual to produce the original documents prior to employment or acceptance to serve in any such capacity, except provisional employees for limited periods as described in § 6344.2 (f) and outlined above. An employer, administrator, supervisor or other person responsible for selection of volunteers that intentionally fails to require an applicant to submit the required clearance before the applicant’s hiring commits a misdemeanor of the third degree. Agencies are reminded that the child abuse history clearance information is confidential and may not be release to other individuals.

    Can an agency or organization institute additional standards?

    Yes, nothing prohibits an organization from requiring additional information as part of the clearance process.

    Can my clearances be transferred?

    Yes, any person who obtained their clearances within the previous 60 months may serve in a volunteer capacity for any program, activity or service (e.g.: clearances can be used in the school capacity and for a local community group and/or church organization at the same time.) However, to become a newly approved volunteer, those clearances initially presented must still be no less than one year old at time of application and Board approval.

    As a volunteer, do I obtain my Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal History check through the Department of Education or the Department of Human Services?

    The agency under which an applicant should submit their FBI clearance application is based on the agency or organization for which they intend to volunteer. If the applicant intends to volunteer in a school or at a school related function, they would apply for their FBI clearance through the Department of Education. If the applicant intends to volunteer with children in any other capacity outside of a school setting or function, such as a group home for children, in a church, as a Little League or soccer coach, etc., they would apply for their FBI clearance through the Department of Human Services. 
    Additional Frequently Asked Questions from PA Department of Human Services.