Screening is important in organizations that use large numbers of parent volunteers, and those that work with children. Although Hockey Alberta accepts the responsibility of protecting its young people within programs, the need to screen each employee and volunteer can be overwhelming. Enacting a good screening policy takes time and resources. The goal of screening is safe programs, safe participants, safe staff, and a safe community.
By taking the approach of associating the actual screening tasks with the level of risk inherent in each person’s position, the burden of intensively screening each individual is reduced. However, it is important to realize that there is no such thing as no risk. Even the most apparently "safe" position (an usher at a hockey rink) can present a risk. It must be clearly understood that, if and when a problem occurs, the organization may be held legally responsible.
Each organization is unique, and each personnel position is different. A screening policy that reflects these differences will do the best job of protecting children, youth and other vulnerable people involved in a program.
The following summarizes what is screening and why we should screen and the steps involved in a thorough screening process.
What is Screening?
Screening is a process to identify any activity of a volunteer, which, by virtue of the responsibilities of the position, could harm children, youth or other vulnerable persons. The screening process ensures the most appropriate match is made between volunteer and task. Screening involves recruiting, selecting and managing volunteers.
The potential consequences of inappropriate or inadequate screening protocol include:
- Abuse, violence, sexual harassment towards clients, children, staff, or volunteers by paid or unpaid personnel.
- Fraud, theft of agency or client resources.
- Negative public relations resulting in a loss of public trust.
- Allegations of discrimination or negligent hiring.
- Personal or organizational liability and the potential for ruinous law suits.
We want to do a better job of assigning volunteers and protecting them and program participants. All organizations providing programs to vulnerable people, whether run by staff or volunteers, have a responsibility to appropriately screen volunteers; it is not only the right thing to do but it is legally required under the "duty of care" concept.
"Duty of Care" is the legal principle identifying the obligation of individuals and organizations to take reasonable measure to care for and protect their participants. Groups need to understand that Canadian courts will uphold their responsibility with regard to screening in the context of their "Duty of Care".
Parameters of Screening
There are three (3) parameters that describe important limitations of screening that one ought to keep in mind at all times.
1. No Guarantees: There is no screening device in the world that comes with a guarantee. Ill-suited or ill-intentioned individuals can slip through the most intensive screening protocol, and this must be recognized as a critical point.
2. No Absolutes: There are no absolutes in screening. Each screening protocol must be custom-tailored to the specific demands of each position in each setting. No two screening programs will look exactly alike, nor should they. Even the most experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable administrator will need to exercise good judgment about accepting or not accepting specific candidates. Nonetheless using the appropriate combination of screening mechanisms available, the process can be highly effective in both lessening the likelihood of harm and decreasing organizational liability in the event that a "bad apple" does slip through.
3. Initial Screening is Never Enough: Screening does not begin with the application process and end when the candidate is hired.