On May 1st, James Raymond Gallagher, a 55-year-old basketball coach with the Wilmington Family YMCA, was arrested for allegedly attempting to entice children into his vehicle for money.
The current policy in place with the Wilmington Family YMCA requires all volunteers to undergo a background check through a sex offender database. Dick Jones, CEO for the YMCA told Star News Online that “there is room for improvement.”
“I don’t believe we were getting 100 percent of the information we thought we were,” said Jones.
Each year, this YMCA has 500 volunteers that run its various sports teams and events.
Where the volunteer records used to be housed in separate facilities, the YMCA has now decided to move all volunteer information to one central location. “We’re just dotting our I’s and crossing our t’s to make sure no volunteers slip through the cracks,” said Jones. “We want everyone at the YMCA to be following the same process.”
Another issue with the current background check system is that volunteers were being screened through the sex offender registry but not all of them were undergoing a criminal history check. When Gallagher was checked through the sex offender registry, his two previous misdemeanor charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and being drunk and disorderly, did not appear as they were not sex crimes.
A thorough, due diligent background check is necessary for those working with children to ensure that no leaf has been left unturned. A criminal history search could even come back clear in a state-only background check if the applicant was charged with crimes outside of the state in which they were being screened.
Similar local organizations including the Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington, are taking their background checks a step further by including criminal and sex offender checks in their applicant screenings as well as online database searches. The problem with this however, is that relying on database checks can still leave room for error. Databases are “notoriously inaccurate” and are often times found to be missing critical background histories and records. While using these types of checks can be helpful, they should only ever be used as a supplemental tool and never as a stand-alone screening procedure.