Background & Clearance Checks

Students engaging with partner organizations that work with vulnerable populations may be required to complete a background check before they begin. There are two main purposes of a background check process: (1) to verify an individual's identity, and (2) to review their criminal history. Students may also be asked to fill out clearance forms and complete a Mandated Reporter training before engaging.

The Swearer Center provides background and clearance check support to students participating in any of our Fellowship programs, affiliated student groups, or CBLR courses, and students who find volunteer opportunities through BrownEngage

A few important considerations:

  • Clearance forms and background checks are valid for one year. 
  • Due to state law, the Swearer Center or Attorney General's Office will not be able to process a RI State Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) background check on your behalf until you turn 18 years of age. Please contact your supervisor for specific policies regarding volunteers under the age of 18 before you begin your engagement.
  • All students who wish to engage with the Providence Public School District (PPSD) are required to have an RI State Background Check on file with the district prior to their engagement.
RI State Background Checks

RI State Background Checks are required for students who will engage with minors (under the age of 18) and/or vulnerable populations through organizations that require this type of check. You can obtain this type of clearance check through the Attorney General's Office or the Swearer Center if you are an affiliated student (participate in a Swearer program, fellowship, or volunteer opportunity). Please note that the Swearer Center State BCI appointment process has ended for the Fall semester. 

In order to obtain an RI State Background Check through the Attorney General's Office, please follow the instructions listed on their website. For questions, please email ([email protected]) or call their office (401-274-4400) directly.

Please be sure to bring your government-issued ID (license, state ID, passport, etc.). The AG's office will be able to conduct your RI State BCI for ~$5.00 (processing fees bring it up to around $5.60) which can be paid by debit/credit card. They do not accept cash. 

Attorney General's Office Location: 
4 Howard Avenue (corner of Pontiac Ave. and Howard Ave., in the Pastore Complex)
Cranston, RI 02920

Hours of Operation:  Monday – Friday* | 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. | (Fingerprint process stops at 4:00 p.m.) | *Closed on state holidays

Mandated Reporter Training

Any individual engaging with minors under the age of 18 is required to complete a virtual Mandated Reporter training on TopHat, the Swearer Center's e-learning platform. To participate in this course you must first sign up for a student account on TopHat by using your Brown SSO credentials. The Swearer Center maintains a list of students who have completed this virtual training for compliance tracking purposes.

What does the Mandated Reporter training include?

The 20-minute training module will teach participants about their roles as Mandated Reporters and provide instructions on how to make a report in the event that known or suspected cases of child abuse become known. The mandated reporting process is enforced by state law (RIGL 40-11-3). After receiving a report of known or suspected child abuse, the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) investigates and intervenes as necessary. 

How often do participants need to take the training?

While we invite students to review the training each year, it only needs to be completed once during a student's tenure at Brown.

PPSD-Specific Clearance Forms

Pre-Engagement Checklist for PPSD Volunteers:

All students who plan to engage with the Providence Public School District (PPSD) must complete the following steps. If you have any questions about the information shared here, please reach out to Sophia Pray ([email protected]).

  1. Complete a RI State Background Check (see above)

  2. Fill out and sign PPSD's Confidentiality Agreement and Mandated Reporter forms, and send them to your Site Leaders or supervisor

  3. Complete the online Mandated Reporter training (see above)

Swearer Center Statement

The Swearer Center acknowledges that discrimination based on criminal records perpetuates the marginalization of formerly incarcerated people, and that the impacts of this discrimination fall most heavily on communities of color. It is in response to this sort of discrimination that measures such as “Ban the Box” have been passed (in Rhode Island enacted in 2014). While we must comply with state law, we are committed to giving full consideration to each volunteer whether or not there are any arrests listed on their BCI. We recognize that BCIs construct a notion of safety that relies on the labeling of people according to their interactions with law enforcement officials and the criminal justice system. This results in an incomplete and often distorted picture of a person.

It is with this understanding in mind that the Swearer Center has adopted the following policies when it comes to reviewing BCIs.

  • We will not consider “hits” on a BCI unless the nature of the offense relates directly to the type of work required in the volunteer position.

  • We will provide any student whose BCI comes back with a “hit” with a copy of their BCI so that they can identify any inaccuracies and provide context to the listed “hits.” Members of the Swearer Student Development Team will review such “hits'' with students on a case-by-case basis to ensure that students who want to be involved with Swearer are able to do so. 

  • We will ensure that a limited number of Swearer staff will read the BCI so that this information will remain as private and confidential as possible.

  • We will only require BCIs when explicitly required by law, or by the partner organization. 

  • We will reevaluate these policies at the beginning of each semester, and will communicate policy changes to the Swearer Center Student Advisory Committee before finalizing them.