Publication Date: June 1, 2016
UPDATE: As of June 5, a new policy was set in place requiring all current and future volunteers to undergo a background check. The three sex offenders were also fired.
A crisis center in Michigan is under fire after a board member figured out that three of the volunteers are registered sex offenders. The crisis center helps callers who are victims of abuse. Some of the callers are victims of sexual abuse. The crisis center does not run background checks on their volunteers or paid employees, and only relies on a 65-hour training program to vet applicants.
Since the shocking discovery, Michigan State University, the Firecracker Foundation and Eve House have cut ties with, and stopped referring victims to, the crisis center. The Firecracker Foundation “provides child survivors of sexual trauma and their families with high quality, consistent holistic healing services like individual mental health therapy, trauma sensitive yoga therapy and caretaker support groups.” Eve House “provides shelter and supportive services to victims of domestic and sexual violence while seeking to end domestic and sexual violence through public awareness and community education.”
A proposal has been made to enact a new policy that determines whether the three volunteers can remain at the crisis center, and if all future staff will be required to undergo background checks.
As with paid staff, it is important to assess the potential risk and exposure to clients, employees, other volunteers, property and finances. As the sensitivity of the volunteer assignment increases, the need for multiple and more thorough screening procedures increases. To help manage risk, and help protect vulnerable populations, such as the sexual abuse victims calling in to the crisis center, all volunteers and paid staff need to be screened.