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Source: United States Senator for New York Charles E Schumer

11.10.19

DOJ Has Failed To Implement Program Senator Passed Into Law In 2018 That Provides Orgs That Serve Vulnerable Populations With Critical FBI Background Check Info; More Than 30K Sex Offenders Reside In New York

Schumer Says Protecting Kids, Elderly & Disabled From Physical, Mental Or Sexual Abuse Must Be A DOJ Objective; Makes Public Push To Get DOJ Moving

Schumer To DOJ: What The Heck Is Going On With Delay Of Law That Beefs Up Employee & Volunteer Background Checks To Protect Kids?       

Citing an under-the-radar and unnecessary risk to New York City and Long Island kids, the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable local populations, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer revealed, today, how the Department of Justice (DOJ) is failing to implement a law he pushed and passed more than a year ago. Schumer explained that the DOJ is failing to follow through on implementing the Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA), which mainly protects kids through better employment background checks, passed in March 2018 and was supposed to be implemented in March 2019.

“Protecting children, the elderly and people with disabilities from abuse must be a major priority at the Department of Justice, but this no-excuse delay with implementing the Child Protection Improvement Act really makes you worry,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “We have to have robust employment checks when it comes to staffing afterschool programs, preschools, nursing homes and other organizations that employ people whose job it is to oversee members of a vulnerable population.”

Schumer held several events across New York, like on Long Island, as he made the case to close gaps in FBI fingerprint and other background check methods utilized by organizations serving children and other vulnerable groups. Schumer publicly called on the DOJ to act, saying protecting kids from possible sex offenders, abusers or other vulnerable groups from transgressors must be a federal priority. Schumer demanded the DOJ and the FBI answer questions and immediately coordinate on getting the beefed-up employment background checks measures put in place ASAP, before a tragic case results.   

In New York City alone, according to the New York Sex Offender Registry, there are more than 8,000 offenders living in the City’s five counties. And according to numbers from the Democrat & Chronicle, as of 2016, the number of registered sex offenders in New York has increased by 60% from where it was a little more than a decade ago and now sits at around 39,000. Nationwide, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the number sits at more than 800,000 sex offenders.

“This failure to implement the law that makes those checks stronger and easier to accomplish locally endangers the very innocents we sought to protect. That’s why the Department of Justice needs to tell Congress what is going on and then get moving,” Schumer added.

“As the world’s first child protection agency, The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (The NYSPCC), strongly supports the swift implementation of the Child Protection Improvements Act (the CPIA). There are dire consequences for children when pedophiles, and other unsafe adults in positions of trust, gain access to them. In-depth background checks are one of the most important tools that administrators of child-serving organizations have for hiring safe and appropriate employees and volunteers. The CPIA strengthens the screening process in all states, and must be implemented without further delay,” said Steve Forrester, Director of Government Relations and Administration at The NYSPCC.

Schumer, joined by House colleague Rep. Adam Schiff, who has oversight on the issue in the House, has sent an urgent letter to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray regarding the failure to implement the Child Protection Improvement Act by the March 2019 deadline, as required by law. The CPIA, which was passed into law in March 2018, establishes a national program to provide organizations with access to national criminal history background checks for individuals seeking to work with vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly. With improved access to FBI background checks, camps, after-school programs and other organizations serving vulnerable populations will be better equipped to protect those in their care from physical, mental or sexual abuse; identity theft; and other harms. 

In the letter, Schumer requests that the Department of Justice:

  • Provide an explanation as to what has prevented DOJ from implementing CPIA by the mandated March 2019 deadline, as well as DOJ’s failure to properly communicate to Congress any intent to delay implementation; and
  • Provide an update on the expected timeline of a public comment period to solicit input from organizations serving vulnerable populations on their background check needs and the criterion offenses that may be used in making a determination of fitness.

Schumer has asked the DOJ to respond no later than December 1, 2019.

A copy of the letter appears below:

Dear Attorney General Barr and Director Wray:

We write in regard to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) failure to properly enact the Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA), which passed into law as part of the FY18 Consolidated Appropriations Act on March 23, 2018 (P.L. 115-141, Division S, Title I). As you know, CPIA establishes a national program within the DOJ to provide affordable access to FBI fingerprint background checks for organizations serving vulnerable populations – children, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly. The legislation required DOJ to establish the background check system by March 2019.

While many organizations serving vulnerable populations follow best practices for screening prospective staff and volunteers, they do not always have access to FBI checks through their existing state criminal history records systems. CPIA establishes a national program to provide organizations in these states with access to national criminal history background checks for individuals seeking to work with vulnerable populations. With improved access to FBI checks, organizations serving vulnerable populations will be better equipped to protect those in their care from physical, mental or sexual abuse; identity theft; and other harms.

In a January correspondence, DOJ informed Congress of its intent to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) in the Federal Register to solicit input from the public, including organizations serving vulnerable populations, on the criterion offenses that will be used by the Designated Entity or Entities making fitness determinations. However, no NPR has thus far been published. Additionally, DOJ has subsequently failed to respond to follow-up communications regarding the postponement.

We are troubled by the delay, and the fact that the Department has missed the date mandated by CPIA to begin operation of this program by an egregious eight months. It is imperative that a public comment period is held to ensure the legislation is implemented effectively and serve its purpose of protecting vulnerable populations. This is an urgent matter, and seemingly one that the Department has shown little deference to.

Accordingly, we have two requests:

  • Provide an explanation as to what has prevented DOJ from implementing CPIA by the mandated March 2019 deadline, as well as DOJ’s failure to properly communicate to Congress any intent to delay implementation; and
  • Provide an update on the expected timeline of a public comment period to solicit input from organizations serving vulnerable populations on their background check needs and the criterion offenses that may be used in making a determination of fitness.

Additionally, we request a briefing for our staffs on the efforts DOJ is making to promptly implement CPIA.

Given the Department’s lack of timely response with regards to this issue, we respectfully request a response by December 1, 2019. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer                Adam B. Schiff

United States Senator             Member of Congress

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