Background checks and barrier crimes

Just how important is it to conduct criminal background checks on your staff and volunteers? One national youth organization recently conducted a study of 1,650 volunteer/staff applicants from 24 states. The organization consulted with experts to establish what crimes made an applicant undesirable. Those crimes, referred to as barrier crimes, are animal cruelty, drug, assault, and sex misdemeanors, as well as felony convictions. The study found that over 12% of all applicants had some form of criminal history, and 5% had been convicted of a barrier crime. Of the 12% of applicants who had a criminal history, over half falsified their application response by indicating they had no criminal history.

Criminal background checks are an essential tool in hiring qualified staff and selecting volunteers. However, they is more than one tools you can use to prevent child abuse in your organization. Here are some other strategies:

  • Interview all candidates: Because many child abusers have no criminal record, a face-to-face interview is critical. It’s also imperative to check at least three references.
  • Document your policies: Your organization’s policies must be clearly described, in writing, and your staff trained to implement them.
  • Provide adequate supervision: Prohibit or limit staff from being alone with children, or children being alone with other children.
  • Design your facility: With proper facility design, you can improve observation and reduce opportunities for abuse to take place.
The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us at or your attorney if you have any questions. The article may not be linked to, copied, reproduced, republished, posted, or distributed in any way by non-policyholders of Markel®, without permission.