Senate passes bill to create national background check system to protect children

Legislation led by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to establish a permanent national criminal history background check system for use by organizations that serve children, the elderly and the disabled cleared the Senate on Tuesday with bipartisan support.

The national criminal history background check system, which was previously approved as a pilot project, led to 77,000 youth volunteers being subjected to background checks, 6 percent of which had histories of criminal offenses like child sexual abuse, child cruelty, murder and drug offenses.

The Child Protection Improvements Act, which Hatch introduced with U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), would amend the national Child Protection Act of 1993 to make the national criminal history background check system permanent. Specifically, it would ensure that organizations that serve youth, elderly or disabled individuals have access to FBI fingerprint background checks.

The Senate approved the bill with an amendment on Tuesday, after the House passed the bill in May with support from U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI). The amended version of the bill will now return to the House for final consideration.

“I am committed to protecting children, the elderly and people with disabilities from predators who would do them harm,” Hatch said. “Our bill provides organizations with critical access to the nationwide FBI fingerprint background check system, allowing caretakers to more thoroughly vet prospective employees and volunteers. This is an important step in keeping children and the defenseless safe from violent criminals and sexual predators who would otherwise slip through the cracks.”

The bill would take additional steps to manage the costs of background checks, and it would clearly identify which offenses will prohibit volunteers from working with children, seniors and the disabled.

“As a father of three, I know there is nothing more important than our children’s safety,” Bishop said in May after the bill’s passage in the House. “When they participate in camps and after-school activities, parents deserve to have full peace of mind that their kids are in good hands. Youth-serving organizations across America agree, and they want to ensure they are hiring the best possible employees and volunteers.”

The FBI database is the most efficient way for organizations to crosscheck potential hires across state lines, Bishop added.