Accepting or Rejecting Applicants

5. Interpret the results of records checks

Programs sometimes make the mistake of viewing a clean criminal history as evidence that an applicant is perfectly safe and suitable. Unfortunately, no criminal history records check can fully document these attributes (not to mention, the absence of a criminal history record can’t be used to predict future unlawful behavior).

When an applicant is found to have a record of criminal history, you should:

  • Confirm, to the best of your ability, that the individual hasn’t been identified in error. This may require asking further questions of the applicant or working further with a particular law enforcement agency to get the information needed to clarify the situation.
  • Determine if there was a disposition for the crime (that the case has been dismissed or that the applicant was convicted).
  • Disqualify the applicant if he or she has been convicted of any disqualifying offenses without sufficient mitigating circumstances.
  • If there is an offense that does not warrant immediate disqualification, use this opportunity to ask more questions and gather more information so that you can make an informed decision.

Permanent Disqualifiers for YouthBuild Mentors

  • Prior history of abuse of children, sexual or otherwise
  • Conviction of any other crime in which children were involved
  • History of violence or sexually exploitive behavior
  • Termination from a paid or volunteer position caused by misconduct with a child
  • Failure to disclose a felony conviction, particularly anything related to violence, abuse, or children

Mitigating circumstances

If your background checks do turn up some red flags, you will need to determine whether the information you found is enough to disqualify the mentor or if he or she should be allowed to go forward with the application process. Consider criteria such as:

  • Whether or not the offense poses a risk to youth
  • Level of offense (felony or misdemeanor?)
  • Nature of the offense (violent? involving children?)
  • Whether the charge resulted in a conviction or an acquittal
  • Type of sentence
  • Whether the applicant successfully completed probation
  • Date of the offense (how long ago was it?)
  • Additional offenses to the one in question (consider their total record of behavior)
  • Length of sobriety (if the offense was drug or alcohol related)

6. Make a final determination to accept or reject the mentor

Recognize that you have a lot of data available to help you make this determination:

  • Criminal records checks and other information from application forms
  • Professional and personal references
  • Information gathered during the interview
  • Observations from program staff who have interacted with the applicant
  • Your own observations of the mentor’s personality, skills, and temperament
  • Your gut instinct

Just because someone’s criminal history is acceptable doesn’t mean that they can’t be rejected. You may have uncovered things through the interview process, reference checks, or during your interactions with the applicant during training and orientation that make you uncomfortable about accepting him or her into your program.

Next Steps: Moving Toward the Match

For those mentors who do make it through your screening process, be sure they understand the next steps:

  1. Asking if they have any questions or concerns moving forward (they are on their way to being matched, so now is the critical time to address any hidden concerns or questions)
  2. Pre-match training (make sure they know dates, locations, and details)
  3. The match-making process, including the role, if any, of the mentee’s parents or guardians and the YouthBuild staff