A volunteer mentor from Odessa, Texas was arrested in July for inappropriate sexual contact with his 15-year-old mentee. What started as a flirtatious text quickly moved to alleged nude photographs and assault. The sad fact is that pedophiles sometimes look to youth-serving organizations as a source of victims. Yet three years after the Jerry Sandusky case brought national exposure to this terrible vulnerability, our protective efforts remain woefully inadequate.
Although the vast majority of volunteers are well intended, harmful adults sometimes slip through. Programs have taken steps to conduct background checks but, for the most part, these efforts have been inconsistent. Only about half of U.S. States provide youth-serving organizations access to FBI fingerprinting and, amongst those that do, two-thirds allow only statewide background checks. This makes it easy for convicts to pass undetected from one state to another. Indeed, in a screening program called SafteyNET, which was championed by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, over 6 percent of the 100,000 potential volunteer mentors who underwent FBI background checks had records of concern, including charges of rape, murder and extreme animal abuse. In addition, 41 percent of those crimes were committed in a state different from the potential volunteer’s location, meaning a statewide background check would not have revealed the crimes. Unfortunately, this successful pilot program was cut when Congress failed to pass the Child Protection Improvements Act of 2012.
We now have a second chance to protect the millions of young people who are paired with volunteer mentors each year. The new, pending Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA) will enable all mentoring programs to access affordable, cross-state FBI fingerprint checks. Congress is currently considering taking action on CPIA, the passage of which will ensure final passage before the end of the congressional session in December. Before another year goes by, we must provide our nation’s youth with the protection they deserve.
The following webpage will guide you through the simple process of contacting your respective legislators and advocating for the passage of CPIA. Please take a few minutes out of your day to help protect our nation’s youth.