What is screening?
Screening is a process that helps match people with volunteer positions while improving the quality and safety of the programs and services offered in communities.
It’s an ongoing 10-step process performed by an organization to ensure that the volunteers’ involvement is meeting the needs of the organizations, the populations they serve and the volunteers themselves.
Screening involves much more than police record checks. While police record checks are one of the 10 Steps of Screening, screening is a comprehensive process that begins long before a volunteer is selected and continues beyond his or her involvement with the organization.
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Why is volunteer screening important?
Organizations have moral, legal and ethical responsibilities to the people they reach, including members, clients, employees and volunteers. Screening is especially important for organizations that work with vulnerable people. Vulnerable people may include children, youth, people with disabilities and senior adults.
The following factors affect an organization’s obligations for screening volunteers:
Volunteer opportunities offered
Each volunteer position has its own set of requirements, risks and benefits. Boards of directors must set screening policies that suit the range of roles within the organization.
It’s important to note that screening should be ongoing during a volunteer’s involvement. Screening involves ongoing monitoring and quality assurance. This approach benefits the organization and the volunteer, by ensuring that the volunteer role is meeting the needs and expectations of both.
At Volunteer Canada, we provide leadership and training in the area of volunteer screening. We know how important proper screening is for organizations. That’s why we’ve created tools and resources to assist organizations in screening their volunteers effectively.
Volunteer Canada recently hosted a national dialogue on screening as a first step to re-establish the National Educational Campaign on Screening. The discussion aimed to identify the current issues and challenges in the voluntary sector. This knowledge will help us develop our pan-Canadian screening campaign, in collaboration with local volunteer centres and provincial associations. The program will raise awareness of the importance of screening and build sector capacity to conduct comprehensive screening practices.
Volunteer Canada, in partnership with the RCMP, offered a series of webinars on the 10 Steps of Screening and an overview of the process for obtaining Vulnerable Sector Checks. More than 400 people working in the voluntary sector attended the workshops, from organizations that provide services to seniors, people with disabilities, those requiring home-support services, day cares and youth-serving agencies.
In the mid-1990s, Volunteer Canada launched the National Educational Campaign on Screening, including the 10 Steps of Screening. The program was meant to mitigate abuse toward vulnerable people and to raise awareness of the importance of properly screening volunteers. The initiative was a key resource in the development of the National Sex Offender Registry, a Canada-wide database accessible to police services. Both programs have enhanced the standards and practices of volunteer screening in the past 15 years. While these initiatives have greatly improved the protection of vulnerable people, there is still more work to do to raise awareness of these best practices and to facilitate collaboration among key players.
The purpose of the National Round Table on Screening is to explore the legal, practical, and philosophical implications for creating a centralized, integrated, online screening system for those working with vulnerable populations.