New Illinois law protects kids from predators

Park Districts are now required to do background checks on volunteers

Illinois lawmakers are stepping up safety measures when it comes to your kids.

A new law aims to keep predators away from park district activities. It requires every park district in the state to have volunteers fill out an application prior to beginning work. That form will now contain a question about whether they have been convicted of or found to be a child sex offender.

"We came here yesterday, we come everyday," Katherine Gerontes says of her daily trips to the park with her nephew. "I'm never gonna take my eyes off of him, he's too precious to me."

When it comes to watching 3-year-old Camden during his favorite pasttime, Gerontes says there's no such thing as being too careful.

"Peoria's gotten safer, but you never know what's gonna happen." Gerontes explains.

State law now requires park districts to add a new layer of protection, by running background checks on volunteers for recreational programs offered to children, instead of only screening paid staff.

"Everything we do every mintute of every day is spent making sure that we can provide the safest, best opportunities for recreation and enjoyment of the outdoors as we can as the Peoria Park District." Executive Director of Parks and Recreation for the Peoria Park District, Emily Cahill, explains.

Cahill says the park district has always done background checks on the thousands of volunteers it sees each year.

"We've always made sure that those volunteers are held to a high standards so that folks that are going to be good volunteers to help mentor and foster the growth of our kids, so that won't change. This is just another little detail that will add to our process." Cahill says.

That's making for days at the park filled with more fun and less worry.

"Even though it might be a tedious task for the volunteers, I think it's a neccessary one to keep our kids safe in Peoria." Gerontes says.

Like the Peoria Park District, many other local park districts already require background checks for volunteers. This new legislation simply adds another question to the application to make sure sex offenders disclose that before they are allowed to become volunteers.


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