Thursday, August 17, 2006

Paranoia in the streets...

Pass a Federal Background check if you want to volunteer for the Red Cross, now.

8 comments:

Tish Grier said...

you have to pass one to work for Planned Parenthood, too.

I imagine there was some theft during the whole Katrina thing...or perhaps that's where some of the fraud started.

Jean Marie said...

Red Cross' problems only got worse during Katrina, Mac. Theft and fraud came to a head before that, some during 9/11. It just got steadily worse, afterwards.

Maybe someday it will improve. Sad commentary.

Mark Pettus said...

Gee... now I've got that damned Lee Greenwood song running through my head...

Thanks.

weasel said...

My rinky dink little non profit I work for over here in Maine requires background checks too, state not federal (we can't afford to run the fed checks). And quite right too: we work with other people's kids.

All background checks do is look for a criminal record (and in our case child protective issues). It's not what is known as "positive vetting" in which people interview your fiends and family and actively dig through your records: that's reseved for government gigs and illegal domestic spying (!).

Some people might see background checks as invasive: "I'm a good person, why can't they take my word for it without asking the State Police if I have ny felonies?", that sort of thing. To my mind, its just due dilligence on the part of the agencies. Checks are are indicators, not predictors of future behavior and they certainly aren't comprehensive, but would you trust a bank (for instance) that didn't check to see if it's tellers were being truthful when they said the'd never dipped into the register in the past? Credit card applications and mortgages are much more invasive, but it seems nobody worries about that. The information you type into google (for example)is recorded with your personal details, and the storage and sharing of that information is entirely unregulated and reliant on the varying ethics and business demands of the search engine, but nobody seems to give that much thought. A criminal background check in almost every case only says "no criminal record on file" when you get it back from the police. Your google chache on their servers has everything from searches for hemmeroid cream and bongs to your underwear size and preference if you shop for grots on line. So why are we getting our knickers in a twist?

When you are dealing with sensitive situations and vunerable people it makes sense to take precautions. I'd encourage anyone looking to volunteer to do a "background" check on the organization at the same time: non-profit's books are public as are their board compositions etc. Check them out as much as they check you out and there will be no unpleasant surprises on either side. And if you don't want to be checked, find some volunteer role that doesn't need it. Anyone who refuses to agree to a check with us is politely offered a role that doesn't involve contact with the kids.

In the end, I suppose you have to ask yourself what is more important: the desire to volunteer or the desire to not submit to a criminal background check in order to confirm your good standing.

Mac said...

You know, it's just sad on a couple of levels.

It saddens me that someone who does have a criminal background on file is blocked from this avenue of seeking personal atonement.

It also saddens me that are people who will exploit a disaster either minor or major, for personal gain.

weasel said...

Does the Red Cross disbar anyone with a record? Because that would be bogus.

I can't speak for all non-profits, but we work on a situational basis. Violent crime, domestic violence, crimes involving kids: that's a no-no if you want to work with our youth (but we will find you a properly supervised role if you want to help). Other crimes: make the case, have your references make the case, and we'll take you on.

I've had my head into this a lot since the start of the year as I've been charged with re-vamping our volunteer policies. From what I've unearthed, the way we do it is pretty much industry standard from the big guys to the little. Although it wouldn't surprise me if the Red Cross did something different as they have always been a law unto themselves. They are less a non-profit than a quasi-official branch of government, after all.

Mac said...

See, that's the thing, Weasel--I don't know. They don't say anywhere. To be fair, I don't want to start a stampede of speculation, either--I just know that red cross volunteers are getting this email, now, that it's become a thing.

weasel said...

So if you don't know, who is being paranoid "in the streets": the Red Cross, or us ;)?