Carnegie Mellon University

Pennsylvania Act 153

Pennsylvania Act 153 requires employees, volunteers and other individuals who interact with minors to obtain three different background certifications:

  • Pennsylvania Criminal History Check through the Pennsylvania State Police
  • Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Check through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
  • FBI Criminal History Check. This check requires the individual to submit his/her fingerprints to the FBI

Act 153 requires that certifications be renewed every sixty months (five years).

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is currently transitioning from one fingerprinting service vendor to another. During this transition, fingerprinting services are not available in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Therefore, we are currently unable to perform the full complement of Act 153 clearances. Carnegie Mellon is awaiting further guidance from the Department of Human Services and the new fingerprinting service vendor. As soon as we receive this guidance, we will notify our community about any changes to the Act 153 clearance process.

Consequently, at this time we are regrettably unable to schedule appointments for Act 153 clearance sessions. Further guidance on future clearance sessions will be provided as soon as possible, and self-guided instructions will also be updated and made available for those requiring clearances.

Office hour changes for December 14, 2017–January 3, 2018

The Act 153 clearance office will be closed from December 14, 2017 until the university reopens on January 3, 2018. Please use the forthcoming self-guided instructions, posted on or before December 14, if you need to apply for Act 153 clearances during this time.

Guidance for Department Administrators

Departments and individual supervisors are responsible for determining whether their employees and/or volunteers must obtain background certifications.

The university has developed Pennsylvania Act 153 Guidance for Department Administrators [pdf] to assist you in determining whether Act 153 requires a particular employee to obtain background certifications.

Whether background certifications are required for a particular employee may change as the employee's role at the university changes. Department administrators should refer to the Guidance for Department Administrators as personnel move in and out of positions and when employees take on new roles or responsibilities.

The Guidance for Department Administrators focuses on the minimum legal requirements of Act 153. Nothing in the guidance prevents individual departments or programs from adopting stricter background certification requirements (e.g., for administrative convenience and/or risk management).

The university has developed Pennsylvania Act 153 Guidance for Volunteers [pdf] to assist in determining whether Act 153 requires a particular volunteer to obtain background certifications.

How to Apply for Act 153 Background Certifications

Employees requiring Act 153 Background Certifications have two options: using CMU's Human Resources to coordinate the applications or completing a self-guided application process. Employees applying for certifications from out-of-state must follow special instructions.

Carnegie Mellon University Human Resources is available to assist employees in applying for Act 153 certifications. To apply for Act 153 certifications through HR, you should schedule an appointment with Madeleine Cossell, the university's Employment Background Check Coordinator. An HR staff member will walk the you through the process of submitting applications for certifications, submitting fingerprints for the FBI check, and completing a Disclosure Statement and any other forms necessary for provisional employment.

Utilizing this service is recommended and will help ensure that applications for certifications are submitted correctly.

Carnegie Mellon University has business accounts set up with these certification sites and will pay for all three certification application fees when you complete the certification in person with HR.

Employees may submit applications for Act 153 certifications directly to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services by following the instructions at http://www.dhs.pa.gov/publications/findaform/childabusehistoryclearanceforms/index.htm.

In addition, view the step-by-step instructions:

You must submit the following documentation to Carnegie Mellon Human Resources:

  • A signed copy of the Disclosure Statement in Support of Application for Provisional Employment [pdf]
  • A printout of the Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Record Check Request Results (this information will be available online when completing the application)
  • A printout of the completed online Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance application and confirmation
  • For the FBI Criminal Background Check Applicant Registration, "Step 3 — Registration Complete" form

After applying for certifications, you must submit the results to Human Resources. Some certification results will be mailed directly to you, and it is your responsibility to provide these results to Human Resources.

  • Pennsylvania Criminal History Check through the Pennsylvania State Police — results are generally returned immediately upon application through the Internet
  • Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Check through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services — results are generally returned within a few minutes or a few days
  • FBI Criminal Background Check — results are generally returned in 4 to 10 weeks

The results should be mailed or delivered to Madeleine Cossell.

  • If mailed, to Madeleine Cossell, Carnegie Mellon Human Resources, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.
  • If hand-delivered, to Madeleine Cossell, Whitfield Hall 211.

For employees who opt to apply for certifications on their own, the university will provide reimbursement only to those employees who have a job-related need to work with minors as described above. Reimbursement will be made via the department business manager.

The PA Child Abuse Clearance application and the PA Criminal History Clearance applications are submitted online. To apply for an FBI Criminal History Check, individuals must submit their fingerprints to an authorized vendor of the Pennsylvania State Police for forwarding to the FBI. Individuals who are located outside of Pennsylvania must submit their fingerprints using a paper fingerprint card.

To submit a fingerprint card:

  1. Find someone (local police jurisdiction or state police) who is able to take ink-based fingerprints and place them on FBI fingerprint cards. If you need fingerprint cards, you can download them from the FBI's website [pdf]. Important: The FBI needs two separate sets of ink print cards submitted before they will do a name search. If there are any issues with obtaining clear prints (e.g., medical condition that does not allow you to fully open your hands, worn fingerprints, etc.), you might be required to submit a second set of fingerprints. This is not always necessary, but if the first set is not clear and the FBI rejects them, this will add a significant delay if you did not have two sets completed initially. Please be sure to have two sets of fingerprints completed; mail them both and the second set will be held in case the FBI rejects the first set.
  2. Register at www.pa.cogentid.com. Select "Department of Public Welfare" and then "register online" to go through the online registration process. Print out the final screen that confirms you have completed registration. The fee can be paid online with a credit card or you can submit a money order. (If using a money order, make it payable to 3M Cogent). Important: When you register online, you are going to enter your address. This address is used to not only assist in the search of a criminal record but also to mail the results letter. Be sure to enter an address where you can receive your results letter.
  3. Mail the completed cards, a copy of the registration receipt and a money order (if applicable) to:

3M Cogent
Attn: Fingerprint Card Scan PA DPW
5025 Bradenton Ave., Suite A
Dublin, OH 43017

Existing Act 153 Certifications

Background certifications under Act 153 are valid for sixty months or five years. Individuals who have existing certifications obtained within the last five years may transfer those certifications in certain situations:

  • From one employer to another employer
  • From one employer to another volunteer program
  • From one volunteer program to another volunteer program

By law, Act 153 certifications obtained for the purpose of volunteering at another institution may not be transferred for use as an employee.

In order to transfer your Act 153 certifications, you must swear or affirm in a Disclosure Statement in Support of Certification Transfer [pdf] that you are not disqualified from employment by committing one of the offenses listed on the "Disqualification from Employment" section or a similar offense under the laws of the United States or one of its territories, possessions, another state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a foreign nation.

Contact Information

For additional guidance on the Act 153 background certification requirements, please contact:

  • Michelle Piekutowski, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer, 412-268-5523;
  • Dan Munsch, Assistant Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, 412-268-7367;
  • Madeleine Cossell, Background Clearance Coordinator, 412-268-3210 (for questions pertaining to how to apply for certifications); or
  • Judy Hallinen, Assistant Vice Provost for Educational Outreach and Director of the Leonard Gelfand Center, 412-268-1498 (for questions pertaining to volunteers)