After volunteering for so many years why do I have to go through this screening process, particularly when nothing has ever happened in all my volunteer experience?
Times are changing. Screening is not something that is an option. The degree of screening that must be done will depend upon the duties you do. The church cannot go on gut feel—which people need screening and who do not. It is something that must be done by all. We have to start somewhere and have everyone screened. A great portion of the screening that new volunteers will have to go through is being waived for current volunteers. Screening is not only designed to protect the church but it also protects the volunteer. Insurance companies are starting to insist on screening ongoing volunteers.
I read an article and the Bishop of Hamilton said this: “Our Lord Jesus encourages us to care for others. Throughout the Diocese of Hamilton, many volunteers assist in a wide range of activities and services. It is expected that those who volunteer wish only to help and serve with love, and not to do harm. Experience has shown that this is true in the vast majority of people who generously offer their time, energy, skills and resources. Some people, however, may seek out the vulnerable to exploit or abuse them. Organizations that do not have established screening procedures cannot fully protect their volunteers and those whom they serve. For this reason, it is important to develop, adopt and implement thorough, appropriate, consistent and ongoing screening measures according to established procedures.” What good is signing some forms going to do?
Screening is fundamentally about making decisions and judgments; however, these actions should be based on clear principles and values, and backed by consistently applied policies and procedures. Like most forms of insurance, screening is intended to prevent the problem that likely won’t occur. However, screening addresses the reality that it is possible a person could seek an organization with the intent of stealing money, property, or harming people.
Increasingly, if a volunteer harms a participant and your organization has created or permitted a situation that results in harm, the courts are holding non-profit and charitable organizations accountable for their volunteers’ actions. The forms very clearly lay out the policies and procedures of what you can and can not do and by signing the screening forms you endorse these policies and procedures. It is like a contract that you will follow and abide by them. I feel insulted and not appreciated by being asked to fill out these forms and for being asked to get a police check!
The forms make a firm commitment between the church and the volunteer. A police record check (at no cost to the volunteer) is only for high-risk applicants who may be in a position of trust, working with vulnerable persons, and dealing with confidential material. A great deal of trust is placed in the volunteers but checks and balances must also be put in place to keep both the volunteer and the church safe. We have an obligation to the congregation to ensure we have done everything possible to keep them safe. Try not to think of it as insulting or not being appreciated but rather the church is being proactive completing the checks prior in order to limit the chances of something happening in the future.