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Protecting Your Center’s Children: Policy and Child Abuse Prevention

As a provider of sports programming for youth, your organization can play a critical role in protecting the lives of young athletes. You can help put an end to child sexual abuse by implementing a comprehensive child protection program and training your coaching staff and volunteers. Ask any organization that has experienced a case of sexual abuse and they will tell you that knowing what they know now, there is NO amount of time that would have been too great to spend on prevention and educating their staff and volunteers.

As a youth sports organization you have the opportunity to set a new standard within the sports community. Make the commitment for the long term wellbeing of your organization and for the precious children in your care. You can be a leader to your local community as well as a leader among other sports organizations by setting a higher standard and showing that you will do whatever it takes to keep children safe when they are with you.

Screening of Staff and Volunteers

Many organizations make the mistake of assuming that screening is synonymous with criminal background checks. Background checks are not an end-all. Because so few cases of sexual abuse are reported and even fewer prosecuted, the yield tends to be fairly low with background checks. Therefore, organizations should make sure that criminal background checks are not the only element of their child protection policy, since they alone are insufficient to protect children. On the other hand, organizations should not minimize the importance of including criminal background checks in the screening process. Many liability insurers require them. Furthermore, if an abuse allegation occurs in an organization and criminal background checks have not been done, the organization is potentially exposed legally.

Probably the most positive perspective for any organization to have in the screening process is to think in terms of selecting the best possible staff and volunteers to work with youth, rather than thinking in terms of screening out potential perpetrators. In determining the specific approach to selecting staff and volunteers, an organization should consider its mission and make sure that the policies and procedures that are developed resonate with that mission.

An organization should also make sure that the entire screening process is incorporated into an overall human resource policy that includes careful supervision of all staff and volunteers who have responsibility for children and youth. Consultation with an attorney is essential in this process.

Policy Regarding Isolated, One-on-One Situations

Clear guidelines should be established for isolated, one-on-one situations. Many organizations strictly prohibit one-on-one time under any circumstances. However, for organizations that address the needs of children and adolescents, one-on-one mentoring/tutoring/support is often considered important to a child’s development. If this is the case for an organization, very specific guidelines about such one-on-one time should be clearly articulated. 

Prevention Training for Staff and Volunteers

A good child protection policy should require training that brings awareness about child sexual abuse and shifts adult attitudes about whom is responsible for protecting children and what actions might be taken to protect children. Training is the key component of changing and improving people’s attitudes and behaviors about what it means to keep children safe. Training in a group setting is also an excellent way to put everyone, including potential perpetrators, on notice that your organization takes prevention seriously and is not a place that will be easy for a perpetrator to fly under the radar.

Plan for Reporting Suspected Abuse

Organizations should clearly articulate policy about how reports of suspected sexual abuse should be made and processed. The policy should include specific information about to whom an initial report is made, in what format, and expectations about how the process will unfold. The policy should also be absolutely clear about the fact that staff should never investigate allegations. Investigations should always be left up to the proper authorities.

~Darkness To Light


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CDC – Getting Started on Policies and Procedures CDC Preventing Child Sexual Abuse


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