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Should Background Checks Be Required for Baltimore County Parks and Rec Volunteers?

One Baltimore County councilwoman thinks so.

One Baltimore County lawmaker is taking action to provide safeguards for children participating in local recreational activities.

Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins has proposed legislation that would require background checks for parks and recreation volunteers, at the urging of the Baltimore County Board of Recreation and Parks, according to The Baltimore Sun.

"Baltimore County is the only jurisdiction in the region that does not already require background checks for rec coaches and volunteers with access to children," Councilwoman Cathy Bevins said this week. "It is time to fix that."

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz reportedly said the county would need to study the financial impact of the measure, as there are 30,000 recreation volunteers, The Baltimore Sun reported; the newspaper said Kamenetz asked the parks department to provide a report on costs by the end of the summer.

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)—a nonprofit dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts—states that screenings are essential, in its guidelines for parks and recreation organizations across the country.

"While park and recreation departments depend heavily upon volunteerism, failing to take any steps to screen volunteers places organizations, volunteers, and participants at greater risk," the association said.

"The time, energy and financial investment of ... a proper background screening represents a fraction of the impact incidents such as sex abuse, violence, neglect or other crimes and abuses can have on your participants, organization and community," the association said.

The bill that Bevins submitted with Baltimore County Councilman David Marks would require the Department of Parks and Recreation to "adopt a background check policy and process that provides or requires a criminal history records check, and other reasonable inquiry into the background of any individual or volunteer with personal involvement, interaction, care, custody or control of children as a condition of the individual's or volunteer's participation in any program or activity sponsored by the department or a certified recreation council." The bill would also require standards for disqualification.

The Baltimore County Council plans to discuss the issue at its next meeting, which is Tuesday, April 29.
Buzz Beeler April 26, 2014 at 09:37 AM
Absolutely! There is no excuse with regards to the money issue other than they are fiscally irresponsible. There isn't enough room in this box to list the gaffs. We are talking about the safety of our children. Put it this way, when a police officer makes a traffic stop he runs (through a computer in his car) a wanted check. Everything is available to him. How hard is it when in processing the application to go one more step to insure that no child is exposed to the potential for disaster. If you were convicted of bank fraud does one really thing a bank would hire you. This is a no brainer.

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