Upgrading How We’re Managing PA Volunteer Clearances

Creating the safest possible environment for our youth members is a top priority for the New Birth of Freedom Council.  Background checks of registered adult volunteers are essential tools in that effort.  In addition to the criminal background check conducted by the national office of the BSA for any adult seeking to register with the BSA as a leader, here in Pennsylvania, state law requires both employees and volunteers to obtain three specific clearances to serve with any youth-serving organizations.  Depending on the circumstances, parents may also be required to obtain and provide the PA-mandated clearances to the Council.

Our Council has launched a new PA clearances management system to assist our units in managing these PA-mandates clearances more effectively for their leaders and parents.  Since Act 15 became law in 2015, our Council has received clearances from more than 8,000 adult volunteers.  Each of these clearances is valid for five years before they must be renewed for a volunteer to continue their Scouting service.

It has been an incredibly labor-intensive process to inform our volunteers that one or more of their clearances is expiring.  Every email notification sent by our Council to volunteers about their expiring/expired clearances to this point has been sent manually.  That’s why I was excited to learn that a volunteer developer in another PA council had created a system that would allow us to automatically send a series of email notifications to volunteers whose PA clearances needed to be renewed.  In addition, this new system also automatically sends monthly reports to every unit on the status of all their adults with clearances in our system.

While it’s often cliché to label something as a game-changer, this new system is precisely that for our Council’s administration of this essential process.  In addition, this new system will not require any additional effort by volunteers and units beyond getting the clearances to us.

There are several key enhancements that I’d like to highlight:

  • The new system will send out a series of email notifications to each volunteer with a soon-to-expire clearance starting 90 days before that clearance’s expiration date. If the Council doesn’t receive an updated clearance, additional reminder notifications will be emailed to the volunteer 60 days and 30 days before that clearance’s expiration date.
  • The email notification sent 30 days before a clearance’s expiration date to a volunteer will automatically be sent as a CC to that volunteer’s committee chair and chartered organization representative.
  • Each email notification will specify which PA clearance is due for renewal. It will also include a listing of the status of all three PA-mandated clearances for that volunteer.  In addition, the email will include the BSA ID number for that volunteer since the BSA ID number is needed when that volunteer submits their updated clearances.
  • If an expiring clearance is not renewed by its expiration date, a final email notification will be sent to the volunteer and sent as a CC to the unit’s committee chair and chartered organization representative. This notice spells out that this volunteer may not participate as a volunteer until the Council receives and approves the necessary PA clearance.
  • Every unit’s Key 3 leaders will automatically receive a monthly report on the status of all their adults with clearances in our system.
  • Current volunteers renewing a clearance will be able to upload their updated clearance (either a PDF or a high-quality image) directly into the system. Once received in our system, a staff member will review and approve acceptance of that clearance.  When that clearance is approved, the system will automatically email the volunteer submitting the clearance that it was accepted.
  • New volunteers who have never previously submitted clearances or registered with the Council will still need to use our current submittal processes when providing their clearances. Our staff will then add them to our new system.
  • Since the new system will generate emails when clearances are approved and monthly reports to key unit leaders, the Council will no longer prepare and send out certificates confirming receipt of a volunteer’s three PA-mandated clearances.

As with any new system, there will be a learning curve to navigate (although the design is intuitive), and we will likely discover and need to fix bugs in the system.  But once we get by the initial rollout, staying on top of these PA clearances will become much more efficient for units and our Council staff.

We’ve updated our website to include step-by-step instructions on using the new system.  We’ve also reorganized and added more information to our website regarding PA clearances to make it easier for volunteers and parents to understand what’s required and how to comply.  Please go to https://newbirthoffreedom.org/pa-clearances to review this updated information and instructions on using our new site.

There’s one final thing that I’d like to mention.  If you are no longer active in Scouting in the future when you receive a notice about an expiring clearance, please let us know you are no longer involved so that we can archive your records.  Unit Key 3s can also help by notifying the Council that a volunteer is no longer active.

Please take care and stay safe!

Yours in Scouting,

Ron Gardner
Scout Executive & CEO

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