In wake of new Pa. law, background checks to prevent child abuse up threefold

    Pennsylvania officials report that nearly three times as many adults went through screenings to prevent child abuse last year compared with 2014.

    The burst of new background checks for those with jobs that involve working with children follows a new state law passed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

    Since the Sandusky case, all school employees, foster parents and volunteers who work around children have to pass new screenings.

    Last year, about 1.5 million adults went through the background checks. About 1,600 of them were flagged as having prior reports in the state child abuse registry — and that information was passed on to prospective employers.

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    “That’s information that the employer has that they use to make an informed decision about that person is suitable to work with children,” said Cathy Utz with the state’s Department of Human Services.

    Utz said there’s no way of knowing how many of those 1,600 were not hired for the jobs they sought. But 17 people were found to have a criminal conviction, or some other court finding of child abuse, and were banned from being around kids.

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