When it comes to protecting children, there is no such thing as too safe, so West Deptford is adding an extra layer of precaution for the kids who particpate in youth programs.
Effective Jan. 1, 2013, all volunteers and employees must undergo mandatory criminal background checks via fingerprinting in order to participate in youth recreational organizations. West Deptford's township committee approved the measure at its work session meeting Nov. 15.
“This is a great program to protect the kids,” said Mayor Raymond Chintall, who voiced support for mandatory background checks from early on.
The Recreation Committee sponsored the ordinance. Committee chair John DiCarlo said his group plans to disseminate the mandate to all organizations and to provide lists of all coaches who need to be fingerprinted prior to volunteering in organizations sponsored by the committee. Most importantly, DiCarlo said the committee will have to establish a timeframe for fingerprinting.
The rec committee plans to withhold allotments for sponsored organizations until all members submit to the background check, DiCarlo added. The committee could ban an organization from using township facilities if all adult members are not fingerprinted.
Fingerprinting allows for a complete criminal background check. West Deptford Police will handle any issue stemming from the background check.
“[This mandate] is to make sure there is an added layer of protection for our youth,” DiCarlo said.
Although some informal background check practices exist in youth recreational organizations, most are without a safeguard, DiCarlo explained. For instance, township soccer requires coaches to sign documents confirming they are not a registered sex-offender, however this measure is based solely on self-disclosure.
After approval by the recreation board in June, township committee OK'd the background check ordinance on first reading on Oct. 18. The ordinance was originally introduced to the township committee on Sept. 20, but was tabled after Committeewoman Denice DiCarlo expressed several concerns regarding the language of the ordinance and asked for further clarification.
Volunteers and employees who submit to fingerprinting won't have to pay for it. Under the Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation’s “Check Em’ Out” program, fingerprinting fees of all employees and volunteers of recreational youth organizations is billed directly to the foundation.
Did you miss the Nov. 15 township committee meeting? Get caught up here.
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