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The Organization shall develop and implement a detailed screening process for employees and volunteers that includes a written application, waiting period, personal interview (or other sufficient personal interaction), and a background check from a reputable provider. If at any point in the screening process, prior unlawful or immoral activity is uncovered, the Organization shall deal with the applicant based on clearly defined thresholds for disqualification. 

Careful vetting of employees and volunteers is critical for screening out potential perpetrators.  


12.1    Written policies and procedures document the screening process available for employees, volunteers, and parents to review.
12.2     Screens all volunteers & employees, whether or not they have access to and/or control of children, youth, based on all appropriate factors. Minors who are hired or volunteer will also go through the application and reference process with the exception of a background check.

ECAP’s role/risk assessment tool may be helpful, to evaluate an applicant’s screening materials within the context of his or her expected responsibilities and trustworthiness.

The Organization should additionally determine whether its employees and volunteers meet the spiritual standards required to serve.

Waiting Period

Predators will often look for the path of least resistance to gain access to minors. By requiring a waiting period, the Organization may deter predators. A waiting period provides the Organization with more first-hand experience with the prospective volunteer, offering insight into a prospective volunteer’s gifts, character, behavior, and proclivities. 

13.1 Maintains a stated policy how long an individual must be associated with the ministry before being allowed to work with children / youth. The appropriate waiting period may depend on the needs of the ministry.  Some examples include:

  • Six Month Rule—a new regular attender may attend services once a month. The six month rule allows at least six opportunities to observe this individual.
  • Three Month Rule—Limited application may be appropriate for church plants and fast growing ministries to balance the need for volunteers.
  • Independent references from a prior church immediately before attending the Organization may reduce the need for a full waiting period if the church is similar in beliefs and structure or is of the same denomination.

Additionally, the Organization may require those seeking to work with children or youth to shadow a seasoned leader for a period of time before serving fully.


The Organization must use a formal, written application that includes questions about the applicant, references for character, work habits, personal life, and work history. 

14.1 Organization provides training to those responsible for handling applications, screening, and interviews. 
14.2 Written application calls for full information on legal name and address, as well as places of residence for the previous five years.  To follow up on the history of the applicant, the following questions may be useful: 

  • Name and address of organizations where they worked or volunteered;
  • Name, phone, and email address of supervisors;
  • Nature of work/volunteer position;
  • Duration of employment/volunteering; and
  • Reason for leaving. 
14.3 Application calls for the work history and volunteer history of the applicant, with supervisors’ names and contact information. The applicant’s identity is to be verified by checking a government-issued photo ID.  
14.4 Application requires a minimum number of professional and personal reference checks, often 2-4.  The Organization may wish to require the applicant to sign a waiver of liability so that the reference can answer questions candidly. 

The Organization may want to ask for the following references (with name, address, phone, and email):

  • Professional reference (current or former supervisor, supervisor of volunteer activities, co-worker, person in the same field);
  • Personal reference (pastor, friend, teacher, coach);
  • Reference from a family member (though this may not be reliable in some cases); or
  • Reference from a person of the opposite sex. 
  • The Organization may further ask a reference for his or her own reference, as an additional safeguard and to avoid insularity.
14.5 Application calls for other relevant information related to spiritual character, including questions about use of pornography, sexual morality, and substance abuse. Criminal history disclosures may be requested, unless otherwise prohibited by “ban the box” laws. 

The application should include relevant questions regarding areas that could indicate a potential risk to minors.

The Organization’s religious ethos may also influence the scope and type of questions.

14.6 Organization uses a standard set of questions in reference checks. The Organization will evaluate responses from references for red flags. Prepared questions for references can include:

  • How long have you known this applicant?
  • What is your relationship to this applicant?
  • Would you be comfortable placing your children in the care of this applicant?
  • Have you ever heard of or known the applicant to use harsh and/or abusive language with a child?
  • Is this person stable and spiritually mature in interactions with others, with a reliable character? 
  • Do you feel this applicant has the ability to follow rules and guidelines?
  • Would you work with this applicant again?
  • Are you aware of the applicant having any traits or tendencies that could pose a threat to children, youth, or others?
  • Are you aware of any reason why the applicant should not work with children, youth, or others?
  • Is there anything in the applicant’s lifestyle or past that would call into question their ability to work with children, youth, or others?
  • Anything else you would like to share about this applicant?

Personal Interviews

A personal interview allows the Organization to get a sense of the person’s general well-being and spiritual state. While the application has factual data, the interview shows personality traits and allows a conversation about the applicant’s answers on the application. This is also a good place to talk about job expectations and responsibilities, review the policies and procedures of the Organization, and answer questions from the applicant. An interview should always be done by trained and authorized ministry leaders. Interviews should be the rule, not the exception, as noted below.

15.1    Organization maintains a standard set of questions to be used in interviews, with a follow-up interview based on any possible “red flags” or problem areas identified in application, reference checks, or initial interview.  >See ECAP Screening Questionnaire Resource. 

These may be considered “red flags” that can be followed up with further questions:

  • Inaccurate, incomplete information or gaps in employment or volunteer history;
  • Unstable work history (short duration/abrupt departure/multiple states); and
  • Vague or evasive answers or questions.
  • Clarification should be sought if volunteer/work history is centered on a certain age and/or gender of children.
15.2  Organization trains personnel to identify red flag behaviors, patterns, and characteristics of potential perpetrators using advanced screening techniques.  >See ECAP Screening Questionnaire Resource. 

The interviewer should follow up on any questions raised from responses on the application form. If there are negative history issues or red flags, the interviewee can also ask or follow up on questions.

15.3     Organization maintains accurate records of interviews including time and location, names of people in the interview, general notes from the interview, and answers to a standard set of questions.
15.4 Organization provides for exceptions to personal interviews in limited circumstances. Exceptions to the personal interview requirement may be appropriate when the above-listed interview goals have been met by other means, such as through the applicant’s long-standing involvement with the Organization, his or her close relationship with the interviewer or other Church leadership, or through other verification of the applicant’s suitability for service and clear understanding of expectations and Organizational policies and procedures. If Organization does not carry out interview,  the reasons for not doing so should be noted in writing, as part of an applicant’s screening materials.

Background Checks

The Organization must take affirmative steps to exclude prior sex offenders from access to minors, including conducting a background check. However, there is no universal background check for all jurisdictions. Background screening providers rely on various authorities and databases. Not all are equally reliable. The Organization should evaluate the type of background check required based on a particular employee or volunteer’s role. A background screening provider should offer different screening options based on the Organization’s unique needs. The Organization should also ensure that the background screening provider has a reputable history with a reliable database.

17.1 The Organization documents its vetting and selection of a reputable background screening provider. Tips on how to screen a background check provider: 

  • Does the provider have a robust menu of services (different levels of background checks based on personnel needs)?
  • Does the provider understand ministry needs (such as access given to volunteers)?
  • What is the cost? Low cost providers may not have a robust database.
  • How user friendly are the online portal and request forms?
  • What is the average turnaround time for a background check?
  • What additional resources does the provider offer (risk management resources, webinars, etc.)?
  • Is the provider compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
  • Is the provider accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA)?
17.2 Organization requires background checks for all employees, regardless of position or level of access to children, to be carried out by a provider rather than carried out internally. Different positions may require different levels of background checks.  One approach is for the Organization to implement a multi-level background check system based on a risk assessment for different roles. Depending on the level of the background check, it may include a national background check, local county background check, Child Protective Services (depending on state law), and sex offender registry look-up. Background checks may be required under state law as well. 
17.3 Organization requires background checks for each volunteer who works with or has access to children. Different roles may require different levels of background checks.  See above comment. 
17.4 Organization requires all employees and volunteers subject to a background check to complete an authorization form that is legally compliant.  Note that the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies to providers’ background checks. Background checks may cover a broad range of personal information including criminal history, character, reputation, mode of living, and creditworthiness. The authorization form thus should reflect consent for the scope of anticipated background check information (e.g., criminal background check only, criminal background plus reference checks). A credit history check should be appropriate only for positions involving financial responsibilities.
17.5 Organization requires all background checks to be renewed within three to five (5) years, but also places an obligation on the individual to update information.  The Organization can require an annual renewal application for employees and volunteers that requests information regarding any arrests or convictions within the prior year. Failing to disclose can be cause for disciplinary action including termination of service. The Organization must make sure to comply with state laws about criminal history in doing so.  

Negative History

The Organization must take added measures to ensure that those with access to minors do not have a known history for certain types of unlawful activity; for example, assault, abuse, or sexual offenses. In addition, if an unlawful act does not fall within strict disqualification thresholds, the Organization should have clear protocols of how to further assess the candidate for further eligibility consideration.

18.1 Organization maintains thresholds for disqualifying candidates who have a negative screening/application result from access to minors. Negative screening/application results may be based on prior immoral or unlawful acts.  Suggested automatic disqualifying criminal convictions or established actions (vary depending on jurisdiction):

  • Child abuse, sexual or otherwise;
  • Abduction, murder, or manslaughter;
  • Incest;
  •  Sexual assault; and
  • Any offense listed as disqualifying in the legal jurisdiction.
  • Pornography use
18.2 Organization maintains policies and procedures for evaluating application/screening results based on the circumstances. The Organization should distinguish between automatic disqualifiers and offenses that require further evaluation. The following may form part of the consideration in evaluating someone’s history and suitability for working with children.

  • The relevancy of the conviction(s) or history to the duties and responsibilities of working with minors;
  • The candidate’s employment history since the negative history or other information;
  • Circumstances surrounding the conviction(s) or negative history;
  • Age at which the conviction(s) or negative history occurred;
  • Length of time since the conviction(s) or negative history occurred;
  •  Whether there are multiple indicators that point to an ongoing pattern of behavior;
  • Evidence of rehabilitation;
  • Evaluation of current spiritual fitness; and
  • Any other mitigating circumstances.

Best Practices | Screening Process

A religious Organization may always determine whether its employees and volunteers meet the spiritual standards required to serve, and whether any child safety violations are disqualifying. 

Waiting Period

13.A The Organization may require prospective volunteers working with children or youth to shadow a seasoned leader for a period of time before serving fully.


14.B It is recommended that the application request criminal history disclosure statements, unless otherwise mandated by “ban the box” laws. It may also ask questions related to spiritual character, including questions about use of pornography, sexual morality, and substance abuse, as permitted by its religious ethos.
14.C The application may include relevant questions regarding areas that could indicate a potential risk to minors.  See ECAP Questionnaire Resource.