A local woman is outraged after learning her son’s support workers would need addition criminal record checks to accompany him at his volunteer job at the library.
Arlene Vanderniet send a letter to the Grand Forks and District Public Library board as well as library director Avi Silberstein stating that the decision is causing extra unnecessary hardship.
“The only reason that his support staff are at the library with him are to enable him to be involved in his community,” she wrote.
Her son must be accompanied by a support worker at all times because of his special needs, she says. She adds that he enjoys working at the library and it allows him to do something positive with his time.
“All people outside of his immediate family have had to get criminal record checks in order to work with him and they are NOT a library volunteer while accompanying him,” she said. “I see no need for any of them to be asked to provide the library with a criminal record check and I ask that you reconsider your request in this matter.”
Vanderniet also says that having support workers from Kootenay Society for Community Living (KSCL) and Sunshine Valley Community Service (SVCS) fill out criminal record checks when they’ve already got them, as is necessary to work in those organizations, is redundant.
Under the Criminal Records Review Act, any individual working with children or vulnerable adults directly or potentially have unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults must authorize a criminal record check for their employer or authorized organization.
On Oct. 28, 2013, changes were made to the act that allowed for clients of the program to provide free criminal record checks for eligible volunteers working with children or vulnerable adults.
Any agencies participating in the program (CRRP) may share the results of a completed criminal record check with other organization registered with the program.
Vanderniet is not opposed to the criminal record checks but believes that since support workers don’t actually work or volunteer for the library, they shouldn’t be subjected to another criminal record check.
Silberstein told the Gazette that the library requires criminal record checks from all staff and all volunteers.
“One of the reasons we ask our volunteers (including support workers) to do criminal record checks is because they are taking books off the shelf and are cleaning them—to the general public, everyone is a librarian and works at the library,” he said.
“We feel there is a certain level of trust with that. We feel people believe they can trust a person. Because we make our staff do criminal record checks, we want to also ask our volunteers to. If they are, say, shelving books in the children’s area and there is a child there, to the child that person is a staff member. So we wanted to follow through with that and make sure we’re providing as safe a space as possible.”
Silberstein says the great irony is that the criminal record checks are for people working with children and vulnerable adults.
“And that’s what he (Arlene’s son) is—he’s a vulnerable adult,” said Silberstein. “It’s to protect him and people like him.”
Silberstein said the library has had no other complaints. He confirms that the Grand Forks and District Public Library is part of CRRP and thus any criminal record check is free for volunteers. In addition, a previous record check from another organization involved in the CRPP program can be used through the sharing program.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve had one, you still have to do it,” he said. “You have to transfer it to the institute that wants it. It doesn’t matter if you work for the RCMP, you still need a record check to volunteer even if you’ve already had one. It’s free and it’s online. If you don’t want to do it online, we’ll help you do it online. You have two options: you can either do a criminal record check or transfer one over.”
Silberstein said he sympathizes with Vanderniet but says the criminal record checks are necessary for support workers of volunteers as well as volunteers and staff at the library.
“I understand where she’s coming from,” he said. “She doesn’t think the support worker should do it. But since the support worker is doing the work with the volunteer, it’s the same concern we have. The support worker takes the books off the shelf, the volunteer cleans them, and the support worker puts them back on the shelf. They’re doing it together as a team. That’s why we felt they should both (have criminal record checks).”
Another concern for Vanderniet is what if the support worker is sick or quits and her son gets a new support worker.
“The new support worker would have to get a criminal record check (as well),” said Silberstein.
Vanderniet also feels that by considering the support worker and her son as the same, the library is not appreciating the work he does and his rights as an individual.
Silberstein countered by saying that the son only comes in the library with a support worker.
“Therefore by that rationale, if they do the volunteer work together they both need a criminal record check,” he said. “We’re a public library. I think we’re treating everyone fairly. We ask everyone for a criminal record check. We’re not making a special exception because he has challenges.”