Rep. Cook Votes for Enhancing Background Checks to Protect Children from Predators
WASHINGTON – Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) today voted for HR 695, the Child Protection Improvements Act of 2017. The bill passed the House unanimously.
The bill directs the Department of Justice to allow organizations that provide services to youth, the elderly, and the disabled to obtain information from criminal background checks in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint database. Specifically, the legislation ensures these organizations have access to the FBI’s fingerprint searches in a timely and effective manner and protects privacy rights by ensuring that specific information of a criminal record is not disclosed without the explicit consent of the volunteer or employee.
Under current law, organizations in certain states that provide services to youth, the elderly, and the disabled have limited access to information from national criminal background checks. Currently, many organizations only have access to request state-level background check systems.
This legislation builds on the success of the PROTECT Act’s Child Safety Pilot which ran from 2003 until 2011. The pilot provided access to FBI fingerprint background checks for a variety of child serving non-profits. The pilot conducted over 105,000 background checks and 6.2% of potential volunteers were found to have criminal records of concern – over 6,500 individuals. In addition, over 40% of individuals with criminal records of concern had crimes in states other than where they were applying to volunteer – meaning that only a nationwide check would have flagged these individuals’ criminal records. The criminal offenses among some of these applicants included convictions for criminal sexual conduct with a child, child endangerment, and manslaughter
Rep. Cook said, “Congress has an obligation to help protect our most vulnerable from potential criminals. This bill ensures that those who are working with children go through a thorough background check. We need to do all we can to weed out those who have a criminal record and make sure they aren’t in positions where they could endanger children.”
A member of the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, and Natural Resources Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.