From Santa Hollywood

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BACKGROUND CHECKS – Offering peace of mind to families

posted by SantaTim On May - 22 - 2011 Comments Off on BACKGROUND CHECKS – Offering peace of mind to families

Background Checks

Offering peace of mind to families and the general public.

In Today’s society, parents have the extra burden of worrying about the security of their children.  No longer can they feel safe entrusting their children to just anyone.  Our society has changed so much in the past fifty years that we now worry about the backgrounds of the people we entrust our children with.  We have worries about our teachers and recreation leaders, foster parents and child care professionals, medical professionals and even our clergy. 

And now even Santa is required to have a criminal background check! 

And even though the parents are usually standing just a few feet away, when their child visits Santa, they now have questions and concerns. 

Who is that man in the red suit?   Where did he come from?   What is he saying to my child?  Is my child safe sitting on his knee or being touched by him?

During the past twenty years, all of the photo companies and the malls have done background checks.  They do this with all of their employees.  And today, just as it is with any company or agency dealing with children, the background examinations also cover checking records against files of known sexual offenders. Moreover, it sometimes includes fingerprints and drug testing. 

It is no wonder that we sometime get a little discouraged or even a little defensive when we are asked to get a background check.

I hope I can help to explain why these requests are being made more often and more importantly, why the checks are necessary.  It’s for the children, and their parent’s peace of mind.

To start with, I am sure we can all agree that our society has changed quite a bit since our childhood.
Remember when, on a summer morning at the crack of dawn, you could grab something to eat, hop on your bike and join your buddies for a day of carefree fun.  Moreover, you didn’t come home sometimes until sundown.  Your mom knew you were well and you could take care of yourself. 

And if we heard a story about a lost child or a kidnapping, it always seemed to be in a city, somewhere else far, far away.  And we never heard anything about sexual molestation.  That was a no-no.

Well those days are gone.

Today we protect our children much more carefully, not letting them go too far or wanting to know where they are every waking moment of the day.  We walk them to school and meet them to walk home.  We want to know where they are at all times.  And we now know that we must protect them because danger is everywhere.

Certain elements of our society have evolved, have become more aware, and have created a fear in parents, and families everywhere.  These elements are corrupt, devious, and mentally twisted.  It is as if they just crawled out from under a rock or a crack in the earth.   I am talking about sexual predators.   And they are everywhere, in every level and category of our society.

And in the past fifty years they have moved from that distant city far away, to almost every city, town and village in America.  And yes, right in our back yards.

To top this, today’s criminals are no longer hard-core criminals or the scum of the earth.  Now we see they are executives, teachers, law enforcement officials and both men and women.  And most disturbingly we now see government officials and members of the clergy destroying our trust in the system.  These are people, who fifty years ago, we would never have thought about.  

Today they have evolved and become bold in their devious ways of being predators of children.  And they will use any means possible to get next to children and to win their confidence.   Once they have done that, it is often too late.

In the past five years, there have been a small number of arrests that affect our industry.  Certain persons who, as a means of digging their way into a child’s confidence, have grown or put on a beard and dressed in a red suit, hoping the image of Santa will allow them win the confidence of an innocent child in order to kidnap them. 

Sometimes the stories are only someone collecting photos and dealing with internet pornography.  One or two of these voyeurs have actually worked as professional Santas.  While the rest used the suit as the means to and end: to touch, molest or even kidnap an innocent child.

Because of these few corrupt men, the rest of us are now under a microscope.  Each time a story runs about one of these criminals, no matter where in the world, reporters in our local communities wonder,”Could it happen here?”  “Who is that old man at the Mall, wearing the red suit?”  “Is he trying to hide something behind that beard?”  “If it can happen there, can it happen here?”

And so, the reporters investigate.  They call on the Mall.  They call on the Photo Companies.  They bring hidden cameras to the Mall to see if they can catch something being done, that is improper.  And sometimes, even when there is nothing to be found, they will still produce a news story that implies or infers, that because someone, somewhere else far away was bad, we could be hiding something.

For many years now, the Photo companies and Malls have been doing standard employment checks, including drug testing.  Now those checks include Criminal Background Checks and in most cases, Checks against Sexual Offender registries.  In most companies they are also extending these checks to the Managers and workers on the photo sets.

Until now, this has always been done as an industry standard by the photo companies and malls.  Now some states are passing bills that are requiring more details background checks, including electronic fingerprint checks against National Sex offender registries.  Laws such as California’s proposed “Bad Santa Act” (yes that is what it is titled) require that no sex offender can be employed as a costume character or party entertainer.  Other states have considered similar laws.  Unfortunately most of these proposed laws have no control factors for inspecting and regulating.

Additional, stronger, laws are also being proposed requiring the fingerprinting of costumed characters party, carnival and children’s entertainers.  In these cases the burden of proof will lie with the entertainment or Photo Company or the individual private contractor entertainers and performers.
And the media will still be looking and questioning.  “What about the Santas who go to community events, parades and show up at pancake breakfasts?”  Who is checking them?  

Two Santas caught a few years ago, were both volunteer Santas for community events.   One was caught after he tried to pull a little girl into the sidecar on his motor cycle.

The other was picked up trying to solicit sex from an undercover officer.   After his arrest they found a Santa Suit in his car, along with flyers announcing his appearance at an upcoming community event.

We know that this is a shock to some.  And, it is not an easy thing to request of you.  For some of us we do it every year.  For somebody’s grandpa, who just visits a day care center or two each year, it can seem so unnecessary and restrictive. 

But, to protect our children, to give parents, schools, and organizations the peace of mind, to know that the children are safe, we need to be pro-active in this effort.

Many of the regional Santa Groups now have policies or encourage their members to get background checks and to have liability insurance.

The Society of Santas, in Colorado, requires all of their members and anyone wishing to join, to have an annual background check and they actually offer this service via an FBI sanctioned background check done with local law enforcement agencies.  They also include liability insurance for all members via their membership in the organization.

FORBS, the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, offers their members liability insurance from a National Insurance company who also offers an added option of the background check.  And if the insurance and background check are purchased together, the insurance company adds an additional coverage against being accused of molestation or similar act.  Currently FORBS is looking at requiring a background check as part of the requirement for joining their organization.

I invite your constructive comments, questions and suggestions on this matter.

© Copyright 2011, Timothy Connaghan,

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