Sneak Preview: DOJ Plans To Improve Screening in Youth Programs

Jerry Ashworth
April 5, 2019 at 13:28:18 ET
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(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Single Audit Information Service.) The Department of Justice (DOJ) is reviewing whether to develop grant conditions, regulations or guidance for recipients in youth-centered grant programs to ensure that they consistently screen individuals who interact with minors, in response to a recent audit by the DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG).

DOJ’s grantmaking component agencies — Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services — award financial assistance to support law enforcement and public safety, assist victims of crime, and improve the criminal, civil and juvenile justice systems nationwide. Because certain grant-funded projects involve at-risk youth, OIG emphasized that these components must ensure that grantee staff and volunteers participating in these programs are properly screened to adequately mitigate the risk of harm to minors.

While OIG found that some grant programs overseen by OJP and OVW, such as the Consolidated Youth Program, include in their award solicitations language referring to background screening of individuals in contact with minors, the components, in general, did not have consistent policies and procedures that would ensure that grant recipients use a minimum level of due diligence when conducting background checks on individuals working in the programs. OIG further noted that the components did not have a complete understanding of which grant programs could involve youth, nor did they provide guidance to all relevant grantees on child abuse prevention and techniques to screen individuals.

“As a result, there are few existing safeguards currently in place to ensure that individuals who may come into direct contact with minors are suitable to work with youth,” OIG said. “It is imperative that the DOJ grantmaking components take steps to prevent the victimization of young and vulnerable individuals participating in DOJ-sponsored programs.”

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time here.)

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