Park districts and youth sports leagues across the United States are signing up for a new program that conducts criminal background checks and improves the training of volunteer coaches.

Called "Operation TLC2: Making Communities Safe," the program addresses a growing concern regarding the prevalence of predators in public spaces.

The program is being organized through the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), along with three partners: TSS Photography, a youth sports and school photography company, ensures that volunteers have the proper credentials through a photo identification system; DMP Consulting, Inc., which specializes in training volunteers for public service; and Southeastern Security Consultants, Inc. (SSCI), experts in qualifying volunteers through comprehensive background checks and screenings.

Currently, most background checks search only the state of origin for a potential volunteer's criminal record. By signing up for TLC2, SSCI will supplement the local search with a national database containing criminal records. The process will ensure that any crimes committed in other states will be discovered. Results of the comprehensive SSCI background checks are provided to the park and recreation agency within five working days.

"Out of the 150,000 volunteers we screened last year, we turned away 4,500 because of sex offenses, violence, or other felony criminal records," says Randy Rodebaugh, President of SSCI.

Finally, after a volunteer successfully completes the screening process, TSS Photography will provide a customized photo identification tag with specialized credentialing information and lanyard within five days. With more than 250 franchise locations nationally, TSS Photography's franchisees will play a pivotal role in the execution of Operation TLC2.

In addition to the criminal background checks, a key component of the TLC2 program is an orientation program to train new and veteran volunteers for service in park and recreation settings. Available on DVD, the training program reinforces local policies and helps volunteers understand their roles in ensuring the health and livability of their communities.

Communities that have signed up for the program so far include Phoenix, AZ; West Sac, CA; Imperial, CA; Breckenridge, CO; Lee County, FL; Putnam Cty, FL; Wellington, FL; Riviera Beach, FL; Royal Palm Beach, FL; Coral Gables, FL; Cobb County, GA; Dalton, GA; Decatur, GA; Gwinnett City, GA; Frankfort, KY; Greenbelt Boys and Girls Club, MD; Howard County, MD; Monroe, MI; Springfield Green City, MO; Anderson Park District, OH; North Las Vegas, NV; Conway, NH; Stillwater, OK; Longview, WA; Bellevue, WA; and Tukwilla, WA.

The entire process, including a background check, photo ID badge, and training session, takes approximately 10 days to complete. Participation in the program costs park districts or sports leagues $995 annually, which allows them a discounted TLC2 charter organization fee of $22.50 per background check.

Local park and recreation programs can become an Operation TLC2 charter organization by calling 703-858-2162 or visiting NRPA's Web site at www.nrpa.org/tlc2.