The Salt Lake Tribune - Opinion Editorial

May 5, 2017

Read the Op-Ed Here

On behalf of the YMCA of Northern Utah and the Y Movement throughout the country, I wish to express my sincere appreciation for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and his leadership in sponsoring the bipartisan Child Protection Improvements Act of 2017.

Hatch's commonsense proposal provides youth-serving organizations like ours with access to FBI criminal background checks for employees and volunteers who work closely with children. His legislation will serve as a powerful deterrent to keep predators from targeting the children served by these wonderful organizations.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Utah had the eighth highest number of sexual abuse offenses against children in 2015. It has also been reported that Utah regularly ranks in the top 10 states with the highest rates of child sex abuse. These statistics are both alarming and unacceptable.

That's why we require every employee — regardless of whether they work directly with children — to go through the Utah Child Care License process that includes an FBI fingerprint background check. While we are fortunate to have access to FBI fingerprint background checks in Utah, not all states provide such access to youth-serving organizations. This is precisely why Hatch's bill is so critical.

Other youth-serving organizations throughout the country have joined with the YMCA to express support for Hatch's Child Protections Improvements Act, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Catholic Charities USA, Girl Scouts of the USA, the National 4-H Council and many others. We all understand how important it is that we do all we can to protect children and families from the predators that seek to target our children.

Hatch's legislation not only provides access to the important FBI fingerprint background checks, but also helps to control costs associated with these checks. Likewise, his bill ensures that the FBI processes the results of these background checks in a timely manner. Perhaps most importantly, Hatch's proposal provides access to a nationwide background check database, which makes it exceedingly difficult for serial child sex offenders to slip through the cracks and avoid detection by moving from state to state.

Here at the Y, we commend Hatch's longtime commitment to the protection of Utah's children and families, and we appreciate his continued leadership on this issue of critical importance. We are hopeful that Congress will act quickly to keep our children safe by passing Hatch's Child Protections Improvement Act. I encourage everyone to let their representatives know how important it is to ensure the safety of our children, and this is one step that will help ALL organizations serving our children around the country.

Rich West is the CEO of the YMCA of Northern Utah, Salt Lake City.