The background checks

The_DollmakerAugust 31, 2004

I wanted to break it out of the FAQ thread because it was taking away from the original topic. I am going to play devil's advocate. I have a 20-year-old son who has autism and cannot talk and also needs assistance in the bathroom. He lives in a group home 35 miles away and I can't personally screen everyone who volunteers to help them with a garden project, or if they decide to go out and do community service. Sometimes the guys will participate in Riverbank Clean-up Day or whatever. It's a small home with only 6 men, but still, not just for molestation but also for rough handling and even stealing, anything like that would be devastating for the whole house and would even land some of them in the mental crisis unit. I'd just as soon anyone who goes up there has had a background check. If we only require it for folks who say they plan to work with children, that is a very large crack for a perpetrator to fall through. So I would say if the applicant does not want to do the background check that's fine, but that should preclude them from working one-on-one.

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I have no objection to the background checks, especially given today's constant news about abuse in the most trusted situations.
It's the questions about health, and the blanket release to the Extension Service of control over my health decisions that I just can't sign. The health questionnaire is obviously aimed at children -- at my age, whether or not I'm a bed-wetter seems way off-topic, but you'd think there'd be a question whether my arthritic old knees can handle a wheelbarrow!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 8:39AM
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That does semm goofy. The extensions are part of the University, and Universities are just a big ole bureaucracy. Small Colleges are too, I can attest because my Domestic Partner is a Prof at a small one and these same things happen. Anyway, someone decides that the bedwetting question needs to be asked in certain situations, and it becomes a system-wide edict that makes no sense. Then they leave out huge precautions that should be there to protect privacy. Recently as part of my volunteer hours I went visiting some people who had been given seeds and support to grow vegetables, and I was embarrassed to see that the paperwork I was given included their yearly income, right there on the same page as the directions to their house! This paperwork was not University stuff, it was done by the non-profit group that buys and distributes the seeds.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 9:45AM
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Malinka(Z 7 GA)

Folks: Do NOT under any circumstances provide your SS number to anyone such as the MG program, particularly if you are retired and receiving pension/retirement and/or health insurance/prescription benefits. Stupidly, while on the one hand one receives all kinds of warnings not to carry one's SS card NOR a piece of paper with that number, both the Feds AND states providing health insurance/prescription/Medicare benefits use one's SS number as ID . We are urged to "always carry your Medicare card with you," which means that any clerk working in a pharmacy or anybody that lifts your wallet if you have an accident (or in an MG office--any background checks on THEM?) has access to your SS benefits number. The SS man here in GA told me that it takes nearly 300 hours on the telephone to get an identity theft morass straightened out, you practically have to be in the Witness Protection Program to get a new number, and that many folks NEVER recover the months of lost benefits. I have written both state and fed, Medicare, BC/BS offices about this and I receive form boilerplate responses about how "something will be done." about it. In what century? I cannot carry my Medicare card, my retired BC/BS benefits card nor my prescription card at all in my wallet. I have to have a slip of paper that gives three telephone numbers of spouse/children, who do know my SS number. I'd advise you to do the same.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 12:06PM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

I think that in the case of children (of any age)such as Dollmakers son, care givers should be required to have a background check. Those people who want to work with kids should be allowed to do so, and if necessary, have a background check. But we are talking about a LOT of us who do not wish to work with kids on just about any level. I'm not saying no one should do it. I'm saying I will not do it.

That, and the way this thing was presented. I truely resent being told a bald-faced lie.

And, did any of y'all happen to see on the news last week where a whole box of these background check applications were found after they had been THROWN AWAY?!!!


    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 3:27PM
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Rosa(4ish CO Rockie)

Ok I'm confused. Your MG program requires background checks and health information??
Not here, not ever, as a volunteer.
And no, I wouldn't do it anyway if it was required.
I don't work with kids or in a "position of trust" even as a volunteer, and my health info aside from my doctors name and phone number is no ones business!!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2004 at 8:31AM
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Whew -- Just got back from the Extension Office, where I'd gone, loaded for bear, to tell them I wasn't FIXIN' to sign permission for them to authorize surgery etc. They'd included an inappropriate form.

They still do the background checks, but that's ok.

Hot diggity! Class starts in 2 weeks!


    Bookmark   September 1, 2004 at 4:37PM
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jeffahayes(8a Upstate SC)

I don't THINK they required a background check for me, but I don't really remember. I called the extension office about April of 2002 and told them I was interested in taking the class, and they told me it was probably full for the year, but I MIGHT be able to get in the afternoon class. I told them that was what I preferred, and they said they'd call me if there was room.

Then in August of '02, a MG working on her hours called me to see if I was still interested and they were supposed to send me some paperwork, but it never showed up, and I ended up having to call the program coordinator, who told me someone got their wires crossed.

Anyway, I filled out a questionairre about my interests and background in gardening... I think it was about 20 questions, plus my name, address and phone number, and I'm pretty sure that was it. I don't remember signing a release for a background check, although I have no problem nor nothing to hide if they did.

I seldom work with kids, although for the past two years I have done the "Life Cycle of Plants" segment for the first-graders from one county school where the teacher has this as a late-spring field trip -- four classes, one at a time, and of course the teachers are there.

I was asked about helping with the Junior Master Gardener program, but they probably won't need me until next spring for that.

Come to think of it, when I took a part-time job a few years ago, working 3 hours a week teaching photography to kids at a community center in a local housing project, I don't think they did any kind of background check on me, either, and there I was alone with those kids each week... nothing to fear from me, but it makes me wonder what kind of predators MIGHT be slipping through cracks like that.

Geesh... makes me shiver!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2004 at 10:06PM
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jeffahayes(8a Upstate SC)

I just read the FAQ thread, where this discussion originated, and I MUST agree with Janie about much of this -- especially that "well, if you don't have anything to hide, why should you mind us sticking a microscope up your behind..." attitude.

That's a form of societal bullying that's becoming increasingly common and surprisingly seems to spring more from the "left" than from the "right" in many cases (but let's try to stay off politics as much as possible, to keep Spike happy).

I'd just like to say that it's getting close to the point where the only place we're "innocent until proven guilty" WILL be in a court of law -- everywhere else, we're presumed guilty of... WHATEVER if we have any objections to invasions of our privacy. I say KUDOS to folks like Janie who have looked into things like this, done their homework and ensured their greater privacy and less intrusion by bullheaded bureaucrats who are just always looking for backhanded ways to justify their hidden agendas (and/or their jobs) by using buzz phrases like "to protect the children."

As someone else mentioned, there are existing databases all over the internet of convicted sex offenders, etc. It's those who've never been caught that are the threat... and no amount of "background checks" are going to discover records that don't yet exist.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2004 at 10:53PM
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For John's group home, the housedad will lose his accreditation if he hires anyone, or allows any volunteer to come in, who has not had certain screening. Yes some could be missed and yes it is overly bureaucratic, but I don't feel guilty that you have to lose a little bit of privacy for the privelege of working with my young feller. I also believe you should have the right to decline screening and still be allowed to work on projects that don't involve close contact with vulnerable people.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2004 at 6:56AM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

Dollmaker, I do agree with that, and appreciate your feelings on the subject. Wouldn't be much of a mama, if you were otherwise.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2004 at 8:52AM
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shhhhh, he's 20! Don't tell him I'm watching! ;D

    Bookmark   September 2, 2004 at 4:21PM
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sowthefrikan(z7b/NE TXexas)

How about the parent gets screened, too, so that we know we aren't going to be blamed for their abuse?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2004 at 6:00PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Hey there: This came up some time ago at IUPurdue Ext. To put it bluntly, the U wants to avoid any legal liability. Should anyone be involved in some neferious activity they can refuse membership for particular reasons. I understand their point of view even if I don't like it. It's their program and if I want to be an MG I have to play by their rules. Lawsuits have become a game to some people and a way of life to others. :( Sandy

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 3:39AM
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wow Sowth, that was really harsh and unjustified. Have you ever been accused unjustly? Cause my kid sure has been hurt by an improperly screened person.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 6:41PM
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Ya know Sowth, I have been steaming over that ignorant remark all day. What a horrible thing to say about parents.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 8:18PM
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sowthefrikan(z7b/NE TXexas)

Why, exactly, does a Master Gardener need to be ALONE with a child? Will someone please explain that one to me, preferably in short sentences with words of one syllable?

While I sympathise about your child and I would be very angry if I were you, what does pointing out the very unsavoury reality that parents can also be abusive have to do with me, personally, being accused unjustly? And, no, by the way, I have not. But everyone does need to realise security checking someone is criminalising them, and if we are going to go that route, then it is only fair all involved be treated the same. Parents, and others.

Harsh? Yes, it is a harsh reality that caretakers have also been falsely accused. Remember all that hysteria in this country some years ago where peoples lives were wrecked because kids were producing "memories" of abuse at kindergarten which never happened? It even made news in sleepy Africa.

Every now and then kids are found living in closets in their own filth, and it isn't volunteers who put them there.

This is a terrible sword that cuts both ways and should be recognised as such. So if anyone thinks it harsh parents should be checked, perhaps they can understand why many volunteers think it equally harsh they be checked and object.

And even if a person is "properly" screened and comes through squeeky clean, just what guarantee is there that this person will not freak out and do something they have never done before? The very next day they could start a drinking binge. Are we going to run security checks every week? Every day?

It's a risk we take, and which those who work with kids take. Sadly, life isn't always fair or kind.

So ja, I object to anyone thinking it just dandy that one group of people, who are giving of their time for free, have their private lives pried into while others do not.

In short, I object, full stop.

Rest assured: I'm not going to be working with other people kids because I, personally, don't trust the parents. Too many horror stories, too much silence.

It really is awful if your child was hurt and I hope there was no lasting effect, but I also firmly believe it is the exception rather than the rule.

Meanwhile, we get to be criminalised by security checks, too, even when we are trying in our own way to heal society rather than destroy it.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 8:31PM
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andie_rathbone(Tyler, TX - 7B)

We were just told at the MG meeting this week that anyone who is working with kid - Junior MG program, the stuff we do with the Tyler day Nursey, and 4-H joint programs will reqyuire a background check. If you don't participate in any of those programs, you don't have to go thrugh it.

I understand that people object to this & we should be trustworhty, etc., etc. However, I'm sure a lot of people felt the same way about their parish priests & look what happened there.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 12:21AM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

There are strong feelings all around. Both sides have valid points. But this discussion has reinforced my resolve to not work with children. It doesn't matter if it requires a background check or not; I just don't want to work with children. To me, it is not fun.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 12:51AM
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jeffahayes(8a Upstate SC)

I LIKE children, when they're well-behaved and are interested and involved or I can spur that interest.

And I've never been accused of even looking at a child the wrong way, nor had a background check that I'm aware of, except for the one they did when I became a security guard 27 years ago. And I'm happy and willing to work with children in projects like Junior Master Gardener, as I've been asked to do next spring (and there was no mention of a background check).

That said, I'm also quite leery of working with individual children, one-on-one. When and if I do this sort of work, I want there to be multiple children around at all times and preferable at least one other adult present, because there ARE some crazy parents out there, and there ARE some delusional children, as well.

And while I'm not agreeing with the blanket statement SowthEfrikan made above, I do and can see how a parent could be abusive and then when someone notices the abuse, try to claim that some volunteer who had been working with the child did it. I can also see how perhaps a child might not like the volunteer and decide to get even with them by deliberately cutting, bruising, burning or otherwise hurting himself or herself and then claiming the volunteer did it.

I KNOW these cases would represent a very small minority, but I also know this sort of thing HAS happened in the past and will likely happen again. And while our legal system is supposedly "innocent until proven guilty," when someone's accused of child abuse or molestation, man, that's like the KISS OF DEATH... they're branded for life, innocent or not, in some cases.

The case Sowthie mentioned above was the McMartin Preschool case, where an entire preschool full of children had supposedly been molested by the owner and practically everyone working there. It all started with one or two children with overly vivid imaginations and then a witchhunt ensued and these kooky child psychologists used these "imagery" sessions that were later proved to effectively work as a form of hypnosis to convince kids that hadn't been abused that they had been.

Some of those folks were originally convicted and sentenced to prison for like 300 years, but eventually all the sentences were overturned when the TRUTH finally came out.

So, yeah, I certainly see SowthEfrikan's point! And frankly, I think making all applicants take a detailed psychological profile test (which can be called an "aptitude and interests" test, so folks won't refuse to take it), would screen out not only the folks who had criminal records (which are easy to find online), but also those who had a propensity to be dangerous to others -- child or adult, alike.

I'd agree to take that test -- as long as they let me see the results and their analysis, but I think I might balk at the background test, too, just because it IS like an accusation of guilt.

Just some more thoughts,

    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 5:22AM
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I feel sorry for anyone who thinks accusing parents of abusing children is a valid point. Also, I am not talking about a child per se, these are adult men and you're not getting near them, alone or otherwise. I am done with this thread because it's getting idiotic.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 7:41AM
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I'm retired male and used to do a lot of volunteer work. I now have NO interest to work with children in any form. Not gardening...not to use my 30 years experience in the Scouting movement...coaching...nothing. Let the parents handle it all.

Sure, bad stuff exists but as a child and adult active in scouting to sports groups to religious groups (yes, Catholic) schools. I just never came across any incident.

I'm quite content to work with plants. Besides, plants are much better behaved than the self-centered, spoiled, bratty kids most parents are raising today. What's even worse are the Sesame Street-fed generation, with the attention span of a firefly, having kids of their own. Scary.

I'm just a grumpy gardener. Less grumpy around plants.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 11:31AM
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Blond_Bimbo(5 OH)

Insofar as kids being "brats" - you should meet my five sons - they sometimes come up and help me to weed the garden at extension and help collect bugs for entomology. They are wonderful kids and fun to be around! They have learned so much and are sure to be VERY quiet if they enter the extension office. Kids are groomed into good behavior and blossom when they are loved and nutured by their parents! Background checks for us mg'rs are a prerequisite in Ohio. We were asked on our application if we have any illness that would prevent us from doing our duties as MG'rs. I really didn't think that part was appropriate. It contradicts the clause at the end of each fact sheet which states that our program at extension supports diversity, gender and how it is expressed(?), disabled people, veteran status applicants, and protects against age discrimination, and promotes diversity of thought, religion, race, etc. Basically, everyone but child molesters and abusers and felons are welcome to apply to the program! The way the rules read in ours, you can be a prostitute so long as you weren't convicted while actively having had hiv or aids - no kidding - go figure! I feel that the rules clearly need to be standardized for mg'rs and that government regulations need to be followed for applicants to the program or the program will get into hot water. Sometimes the questions get a little too nosey and I actually caught one of our advisory board members driving by our house not once, not twice, but three times to see where and how I lived! Why not just stop by, say hello, and ask to see my garden? Thank goodness I have a sense of humor!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 8:39AM
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blueheron(z6 PA)

One other point about background checks is the fact that most child abuse is done by family members or friends of the family, not strangers! So background checks won't protect the children from abuse committed by those people.

Having said that, I have no objection to a background check personally.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 7:49PM
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