WHAT IS SCREENING?
Screening is an on-going process designed to identify any person (volunteer or staff) who may harm children or vulnerable persons. Volunteer screening serves two main purposes:
- to create and maintain a safe environment
- to ensure an appropriate match between volunteer and task
There are 10 steps involved in Screening; however, you need only select those steps that apply specifically to positions within your organization. The key to a successful screening program is to use the steps in a way that best suits a specific position. For a guide on determining what steps should be used for what position please refer to the following handout:
For detailed information on each step in the Screening process, please click on the tabs on this page.
Any organization that provides programs to vulnerable people has an obligation to appropriately screen people who work for them, including volunteers. Screening is not only the right thing to do; it is legally required under the principle of “Duty of Care.”
The concept of duty of care identifies the relationship that exists between two persons (e.g. two individuals, an individual and an organization) and establishes the obligations that one owes the other, in particular the obligation to exercise reasonable care with respect to the interests of the other, including protection from harm.
CODE OF CONDUCT
Even before your organization starts the screening process an up to date code of conduct is a must. This document sets out the rules and norms that outline what is accepted by the organization and it also serves as the standard that you hold your volunteers accountable to.
Security safeguards should be implemented to ensure all personal information is protected from theft as well as unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use or modification thereof. The level of safeguards employed shall be directly related to the level of sensitivity of the personal information collected. The more sensitive the information, the higher the level of security employed. Methods of protection and safeguards to be employed need to include but in no way be limited to locked files, offices and storage areas, security clearances and need to know access as well as technological measures such as passwords and encryption. This should be a standard practice with all of the association’s valuable information.
Some of the information in this section was taken from the ODHA Screening Toolkit in addition to Hockey Canada. Thank you to the Branch for sharing this information.
- Step 1 - Risk Assessment
- Step 2 - Job Descriptions
- Step 3 - Recruitment
- Step 4 - Applications
- Step 5 - Interview
- Step 6 - Reference Checks
- Step 7 - Criminal Record Check
- Step 8 - Orientation/Training
- Step 9 - Supervision/Evaluation
- Step 10 - Follow-up
The first step in any risk management process is to assess the risk - understand what positions your organization requires, determine the trust factor for each position, identify what could go wrong in each position, and identify how bad it could be if something was to go wrong. Once you have answered those questions you can then determine the risk factor of each position.
If you are struggling to determine what risk a position should be classified, err on the side of caution and go with the higher of the risks and when in doubt as to the degree of risk deem the position “high risk.”
Volunteers and employees who are active in more than one capacity should be screened for the position with the highest level of risk.
Finally, when a person moves from a position with a low level of risk to a position of high risk, appropriate screening will be carried out for the new high-risk position.
High Risk Volunteer positions meet any of the following criteria:
- The position requires a volunteer to be alone and unsupervised with a participant.
- The position requires a volunteer to develop a close, supportive relationship with a participant or group of participants.
- The position may include a time when the volunteer is left unsupervised on a regularly scheduled basis.
- The position may require driving of participants.
Medium Risk Volunteer positions meet any of the following criteria:
- The position requires a volunteer to give information to participants or potential participants with a minimum of supervision.
- The position requires a volunteer to act on behalf of the organization in an unsupervised setting.
- The position requires the volunteer to handle money or food with a minimum of supervision.
- The volunteer has access to the organization’s confidential files.
Low Risk Volunteer positions meet all of the following criteria:
- The position does not require close contact with participants or the public.
- The position is supervised at all times
- The position does not require the volunteer to handle money or food
The first step for your association is to inventory the positions that you have and assess each position using the criteria above and the position description.
Hockey Canada Consider the Risk Assessment Chart >
The first level of screening consists of effectively designing positions in your organization. Each position should have a specific set of conditions and responsibilities - and risks.
A position description is a powerful and necessary tool. It is used to define a position and to set ground rules for personnel - both paid and unpaid. Position descriptions protect personnel by formalizing roles, but also send a clear message to any potential abuser that your organization is serious about providing safety for participants and personnel.
A good job description is key to getting the right people into the right positions as it serves as a recruiting tool, outlines how people and duties relate to each other, and provides insight into what exactly the job entails.
Clear and precise position descriptions should be developed for each position within the Association. Responsibilities and expectations should be clearly laid out, including the position’s dos and don’ts. A clear position description should also indicate the screening requirements.
The following makes up a good job description:
- Position title
- Position in the association
- Who the person directly reports to (Reports to)
- Overall responsibility
- Key areas of responsibility
- Who does the person work with on a regular basis (Consults with)
- Term of employment
- Screening requirements
- Necessary skills and experience required (Qualifications)
Sample job descriptions for a minor hockey association, provided by Hockey Canada:
How to design a job description:
FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON
Recruitment is getting the right person in the right job, with the right skills at the right time. Your association’s Mission and Values should drive your recruitment strategy; look for people that will fit with your values and believe in your mission. Proper recruitment must be done in a fair and open process, regardless of the position - president, category director, or coach
Recruiting volunteers can be a time-consuming process. Unfortunately, it often becomes a case of looking for a “warm body” to get the job done. A volunteer program is a two-way street; it must meet the needs of the organization and the needs of the volunteer.
Recruiting the “right” volunteer is crucial. Recruiting is a process rather than a problem. Securing volunteers should be done through a “recruitment process” rather than by taking the first individual who comes along. Because of this start the process early enough that it gives the organization the proper time to recruit, select, and screen the volunteer. Be concise and clear when advertising for volunteers by outlining the skills you want the volunteer to have.
The key to effective recruitment is a clear job description which defines the work to be done and lists the qualifications required to do the job. This will help ensure that the organization gets the right person to fill the position. Individuals responsible for recruiting and all potential volunteers should have a clear understanding of what the job involves.
Finally, be creative in your recruitment processes, are you constantly looking for coaches? Start mentoring your youth players. Are you looking to fill committees? Search outside the hockey circle.
When to recruit?
- Team Pre-Season Meetings with parents
- Team Post-Season Meetings with parents
- Throughout the hockey season - generate interest for the next season
- During Registration
How TO recruit?
- Arena postings
- Parent Meetings
- Get graduating players involved
Asking volunteers to complete an application form signals the seriousness of your organization’s commitment to screening and provides a paper trail that will protect both the volunteer and the organization. (Volunteer Canada).
Application forms collect basic information such as names and experience. In addition, an application form is one of the simplest ways to make the recruitment process fair and open. Application forms also makes it easier to for your recruiter and selection people to disseminate information. Finally, application forms give your organization the opportunity to communicate the recruitment process and requirements such as references and criminal/vulnerable sector checks.
A good application form will ask questions directly related to the position you are looking to fill. Some things to keep in mind:
- Ensure your application form only asks for information related to the requirements of the position. For example: name, address, past work history, and references.
- Information requests allowed before a volunteer is selected are much more restricted than information requests allowed after selection. For example: date of birth and criminal records information should only be requested once a person is recruited.
- Do not ask for information about characteristics among the prohibited grounds of discrimination, as set out by federal and provincial statutes like race and sexual orientation.
- Applications can include consent to complete a criminal records check and a vulnerable persons check for positions requiring these steps.
The interview is a chance to meet the person and really get to know them. You want to get a good idea of the person’s background, skills, availability, interests, qualifications, beliefs, the general fit for your organization, and explore any doubts about the suitability of the applicant.
Keys to a good interview include:
- Conducting the interview with objectivity
- Having a standard set of questions used for all candidates that are based on the requirements of the position
- Using questions that are open ended to allow the candidate to discuss themselves in a more in depth format
- Providing flexibility to dig for more information if necessary
- Providing an environment that is comfortable to ensure the organization is getting the most honest assessment of the candidate
- Allowing the organization to communicate its selection processes, expectations, and job information.
Some key things you should be looking for when interviewing a candidate are the candidates
- Relevant work-related experiences and education
- Eagerness to work
- Ability to work with others
- Initiative and judgment.
Be wary of monosyllabic, or yes/no answers instead of more detailed responses. Note any inconsistencies when similar questions are asked in two or three different ways. Evasion, general and roundabout answers rather than specific information should raise flags.
Finally, the information provided by the applicant should not be taken at face value. After the interview, the information should be verified through references. Consent to do this is required in writing and should be included on the application form.
If someone is interested in changing positions within your organization you may still want to consider interviewing them for the position but in a less intensive process to ensure that they the right candidate.
A reference check may be the most effective screening step during the hiring process. References will confirm the background and skills of the applicant and will provide an outside opinion on the suitability of the person for the position.
One of the most important things is to get the person you are asking to provide truthful and relative information about the applicant, to accomplish this do not ask questions that can be easily answered in one word or phrase your questions to allow words to be put in the mouth of the reference.
Don’t assume that applicants will only give the names of people who will speak well of them. People often expect that references will not be contacted.
Some things to do when you are conducting a reference check include:
- Contact other associations, sports, or volunteer organizations the applicant has worked for.
- Make sure you have phone numbers for the candidate’s references.
- Ensure you check references for everyone who applies for the same position.
- Verify the identity of the person to whom you are speaking.
- Describe the position clearly to the person giving the reference and ask about their skills and suitability for the position.
- Identify the level of trust within the position, especially if the position involves working with children.
- If the person sounds guarded or hesitant, perhaps the candidate was a problem. Remember, however, that some problems arise because of the supervisor, so get several references.
- Because of the time commitment ask other trained volunteers or staff to help conduct the reference checks.
- Have a standardized reference check questionnaire to ensure everyone is asked the same questions, including leaving space for the reference to make an overall comment on the person.
Remember not to:
- Proceed with reference checks until you have a signed release form, which you can include on the application form.
- Reject the applicant based solely on one bad reference, check others.
If you have someone switching positions within your organization you may still consider seeking opinions from others with respect to the new position - remember if a person is great in one role it does not necessarily mean that person will excel in a different role.
This is a crucial step, however as mentioned before it is one step in the screening process so do not assume that this step negates your organization from doing the other steps in screening - a Criminal Records Check does not mean that the person has been fully screened.
It is important to know if someone has been convicted of a crime. The nature of that crime is also important because if a conviction is an abuse or harassment offence, it can be more pertinent than a conviction for shoplifting, depending on the position the volunteer will be filling. Not all criminal records exclude someone from volunteering in your organization. The position of the volunteer and the nature of the crime must be taken into consideration. Therefore, the organization also needs to determine how potential convictions will be handled.
Even though Criminal Record Checks are an effective tool and part of best practices it is important to understand their limitations:
- A conviction will only appear after a person has been convicted of a crime
- A conviction will not appear while a trial is taking place
- If a person was only investigated or found not guilty a conviction will not appear
- Convictions will only appear up to the date requested on the check
- Pardons and some convictions under the Young Offenders Act do not appear on a Criminal Record Check
- There can be a time lag in getting a check back to your organization
- A person may use an alias or share a name and birth date with a person who has been convicted of a crime which can create a false picture of your potential volunteer.
These limitations highlight why Criminal Record Checks are only one step in the entire screening process
Some things to consider when managing the criminal record check process:
- What will be done with the information and how will this information be stored because once received the organization is now responsible for the information?
- Is the document kept, verified (and how), and/or destroyed?
- Who will have access to the information?
- If there is a cost involved with getting a check, who will bear that cost?
- How will the organization handle an applicant who has a conviction on their Criminal Record Check?
- How often will checks be done, at a bare minimum those new to the organization?
What to do if a volunteer has a conviction appear on their criminal record
The first step would be to determine what the conviction is, this would be done by discussing the situation with the individual in a private manner and respectful manner, however the organization cannot force the person to disclose the details of that conviction. If a person is not willing to disclose the specific conviction the organization may decide to remove the individual from the position or process. Should an individual provide information on a conviction(s) then the organization can decide the level of risk the person would be. This decision is based on many factors including:
- The activities carried out
- The people the person is interacting with deal with
- The organization’s purpose, philosophy and values
When deciding to reject an applicant based on a conviction you should consider
- The nature of the program, services and activities provided
- The character and degree of vulnerability of the participant group served, and the organization’s duty of care to the participants, to the staff and to the community
- Relevant moral, ethical, legal and policy issues and principles; and
- The potential risks involved in the position the individual is applying for, based on the participant group being served, the nature of the position and its activities, the setting in which it takes place, the way in which it is supervised, and the nature of the relationship created between the volunteer and the participant.
Those working with children should complete both the criminal records check and the vulnerable persons check. It should be noted that once a vulnerable persons check has been completed subsequent ones are not necessary as those convictions that appeared on that check are no longer pardonable.
Orientation and training of your volunteers are crucial to the success of your organization. This allows a person to understand the expectations of their role, how to fulfill their role, and the organization’s beliefs and values. Screening continues through the early period of the volunteer’s involvement, and should be ongoing throughout the entire engagement. This vigilance on behalf of the organization is a must - the responsibility does not end once the volunteer is in place.
Although training volunteers may use some of your organization’s resources, you will benefit in the long-run through better informed volunteers, better job performance, increased job satisfaction, safe environments and the opportunity to continue with the screening process. Make orientation and training events mandatory. Apart from providing an opportunity for you to pass on information, manuals and handbooks, and to answer questions, it gives you and other volunteers and staff members a chance to follow up on the placement. Refusal to attend, or constant excuses for not attending may signal that something could be wrong. Urge people to participate at these meetings; don’t always let them sit on the sidelines.
Screening is not finished once the person is in place.
A great screening program will continue over the long term to ensure that you have made the right decision. Therefore, supervision and evaluation is important as it allows the organization to confirm that they have made the right decision, correct any undesired behaviors before they become significant issues, or remove those that pose a risk to the organization or prevent the organization from achieving its goals. Finally, to truly develop your volunteers this should be ongoing and done to make your people better.
It is recommended that the identified level of risk associated with a volunteer position will determine the necessary degree of supervision and evaluation. If the risk is great, it should follow that the volunteer will be under close supervision. Frequent feedback in the first year is particularly important.
All supervision and evaluation processes should use the position description as a reference point. It should also take into account the organizations values and beliefs.
During the evaluation interview:
- Go through the position description point by point; ask personnel to comment on how they think they are doing in each area, and how they enjoy their work.
- Give feedback on their performance in each area.
- Keep comments positive but clearly state any concerns.
- Document the evaluation.
- Have the document signed by both personnel and evaluator; and file the document.
Should the organization feel they need to part ways with a volunteer, a formal evaluation process that is tied to the position description ensures such a difficult decision does not become personal.
Post Season don’t forget to thank the volunteer as they are the foundation of our game.
Finally, you might also want to consider asking the volunteers their views of your screening process.
The final step in the screening process is following up with your participants and volunteers to determine how well the person did in the position, how the organization did in supporting the participants as well as the volunteer, and any areas of improvement. Ensure that the volunteer is aware that any follow-up that happens is because of the level of risk in the position, and that there is nothing personal about it.
It is recommended that the Association has regular contact with participants and family members. Volunteers should be made aware of any follow-up activities that may occur. These could include spot checks for volunteers in high-risk positions.
Should the position require spot checks due to the risk level consider scheduling a time frame ahead of time, to help in managing the commitment required to do them. For example you may say our association will be observing practices throughout the month of November.