Strengthening the Caring Community                        Volunteer Screening Program

We have an obligation to protect everyone whom we serve. However, when vulnerable people participate in our programs, we have a much higher obligation to ensure their protection.  By thoroughly screening persons who will provide services to them, we ensure their safety. 

  • A portion of the material in our program is compiled from the "Screening in Faith" manual developed  by Volunteer Canada, which acts as a reference for guidelines and procedures we have in place at each parish. 
  • Through our program, we have developed 10-safe steps in screening through the principles and   guidelines implemented through Volunteer Canada. 
  • It is to be noted that Volunteer Canada and the Archdiocese of Toronto do not share pastoral responsibilities or duties and are not legally bound to each other. 

We wish to thank Volunteer Canada, the national voice for volunteerism in Canada, for their                  excellent work and for providing us with great resources.

Parish Screening Committee Role & Responsibilities          Pastors may recruit volunteers to support with the administrative responsibilities involved in the screening process.  Selection of new Coordinators and Committee Members should be made by the Pastor.

  • Parish Screening Committees are comprised of a Parish Screening Coordinator and Committee Members that support the Pastor with any necessary duties that are delegated to them by the Pastor.
  • To assist Pastors with the recruitment process for any new prospective coordinators/members, details are outlined in the link below.
  • As this is a position of trust with access to confidential information, volunteers supporting Pastors on this committee are required to comply with an in-person interview, provide 3 references and a current and clear police information check, which we offer at no cost to the individual.

   Click below to view:

   Parish Screening Coordinator and Member Recruitment Process

10 - Safe Steps in Screening Volunteers

Step 1:  Determining Risk

The nature of the ministry and the inherent level of risk involved dictate the degree of screening required. 

  • The greater the risk, the greater will be the degree of screening applied. 
  • Factors that help determine the level of risk include the participant, the setting, the nature of the activity required and the level of supervision. 
  • Volunteers and employees who are active in more than one ministry are screened for the position with the highest level of risk. 
  • When a person moves from a position with a general level of risk to a position of high risk,          the other screening steps will be carried out for the new high-risk position.

Step 2:  Ministry Position Descriptions

We have developed role descriptions for every volunteer ministry position available in 7 different languages.  It is imperative to describe each ministry position and define its inherent risk.

This description defines the tasks of the positions and sets the ground rules for all involved. By documenting the role, these descriptions provide greater protection for the person being ministered to, the volunteer and the Parish/Archdiocese.

  1.  Providing Volunteers with an organized, structured environment;

  2 . Developing policies and procedures outlining the volunteers' rights as well as responsibilities,

       and how they will be supported when an incident occurs.

  3.  Outlining Ministry Position descriptions, interviews and evaluation of volunteers ensuring

       that it is suited to her/his abilities and interests

  4.  Conducting a risk assessment, taking into consideration the personal safety of all persons


Step 3:  Volunteer Recruitment

Recruitment of volunteers and staff are conducted in a formal public process through notices printed in parish bulletins, church newsletters or other forms of communication.

  • Notices should be accompanied by a "Ministry Position Description" and notice that a "Volunteer Information Form" will need to be completed. 
  • These two items are powerful screening tools in themselves and prompt people to reflect on the seriousness of their call to this ministry even before any formal interview.
  • Recruiting materials clearly indicate that the faith community takes its responsibility towards participants seriously and screens all applicants. 
  • We are extremely careful about selecting those who work in ministry and do not apologize for that fact.

Step 4 – Volunteer Application Forms 

Volunteers are required to complete an application, and comply with an interview, reference and a

police check, and are in compliance with adequate record keeping. 

  • In addition, as with the use of a ministry position description, asking individuals to complete an application form demonstrates the seriousness of your commitment to screening and provides a paper trail that will protect both the applicant and the parish/Archdiocese. 


Step 5 - Interview Screening Process

Interviews are conducted for all high-risk ministry positions, with at least two interviewers.  The interview provides a potential volunteer with the opportunity discuss her/his background, gifts,      talents, skills, interests and availability. 

  • It also provides the interviewer with the opportunity to explore the suitability of the potential volunteer for the ministry position in question, and to ensure there will be a "good fit" between the person and the ministry.

  • The interview includes questions, which are directly related to the specific risk concerns for the position being applied for:  i.e. interpersonal style with children or vulnerable adults, history working with money, and so on.  

  • Any notes and documentation will be kept in a secure parish file, administered by the Parish Volunteer Screening Program Coordinator, and kept on parish property.


Step 6 - Reference Checking Process

Reference checks are conducted for all persons being considered for a position of trust and may be the most effective screening step during the selection process. 

  • References will confirm the background, gifts, talents and skills of the applicant and will provide an outside opinion on the suitability of the person for the ministry. 
  • For persons working in high-risk ministries, we request a minimum of 3 references. 

  • Positions of Trust include the following  (i.e. with children, with other vulnerable people, with money, etc.  Reference forms are retained in the volunteer's file on parish property.


Step 7:  Police Information Check Process

It is the policy of the Archdiocese of Toronto that all volunteers in high risk ministries comply                with a Police Information Check. 

  • This policy is directed to all parishes under the Archdiocese of Toronto, and has been mandated by the Cardinal, and by the Assembly on Ontario Catholic Bishops.
  • We must NOT rely solely on Police Information Checks, to do so would be dangerous. 
  • However, despite the limitations of Police Information Checks, they do signal, in a public way,  that we are concerned about the safety of  our participants, particularly in those cases (positions of trust) where the faith group is committed to a full and complete screening process. 

  Enhanced Police Information Check:

  • Volunteer applicants will receive instructions from the Volunteer Screening Committee after the interview has been completed with a simple process to complete their criminal records check online.
  • If applicants prefer a paper consent form option, they may do so at the parish and present 2 forms of ID for viewing purposes only.  The screening coordinator will submit via fax/email.
  • This process is facilitated through our new background screening service provider, Sterling Talent Solutions, and takes a few minutes to completed through a secure site online.  
  • Each applicant will receive their report directly via email, and their Pastor will receive an electronic notification of the completed check from the Volunteer Screening Department at the   Archdiocese of Toronto.

Step 8 - Orientation Training & Parish Guidelines

In fairness to volunteers, it is essential that orientation and training be provided to ensure that the        individual is able to perform her/his ministry effectively. 

  • Appropriate orientation and training will be provided along with guidelines for working with the vulnerable for all ministry positions.
  • Applicants are required to sign the back of their volunteer information form stating that they have read the position description and the screening policy and that they understand and will comply with them.


Step 9 - Supervision and Evaluation in High Risk Ministries

Self-Reviews are an evaluation process conducted on a regular or annual basis.  By instituting a          formal supervision and evaluation process, the volunteer can be observed "on the job" and their    ministry can be monitored on an ongoing basis. 

  • The intensity and nature of the supervision will vary with the risk involved in the position, and are appropriately supervised. 
  • This entails a more "senior or experienced" person in the ministry spending time with the incumbent to observe, support and give feedback on their gifts, skills, style, strengths and challenges. 
  • In the case of positions of trust, the supervision is systematic and recorded. 


Step 10 -  Follow Up with Program Participants

Supervisors will monitor all high risk ministry positions by checking from time to time on        participant satisfaction.

  • Regular ongoing contact with program participants and family members helps to ensure that programs remain relevant and of high quality. 
  • Such monitoring can also act as an effective deterrent to someone who might otherwise do harm and go undetected.
  • It is vital that the parish let all volunteers know that regular contact with program participants and families is part of the parish's risk management procedures and that this practice is not personal.  
  • During this stage of the evaluation process, a random spot check can be conducted if a volunteer and a participant are usually alone together.