Last week, AYSO attended the Safe to Compete: Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse summit hosted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The summit was also attended by Pop Warner Football, Little League Baseball, U.S. Lacrosse, U.S. Swimming, U.S. Gymnastics and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America with the goal of evaluating current policies and practices for safe guarding children in youth sports.
Summit participants discussed and endorsed reference checking, annual background checks and mandatory volunteer training on child abuse recognition, reporting, prevention and protection guidelines as covered in AYSO’s Safe Haven. The attending organizations utilize similar background checking methods in their registration processes and unanimously confirmed the need for a centralized volunteer clearinghouse which would clear potential volunteers to work with any youth-serving organization after a thorough background screening.
Likewise, the organizations also express interest in a process in which any volunteer disqualified from volunteering with one organization for misconduct would be disqualified from working with other non-profit youth organizations. AYSO will continue to work with our youth sports counterparts to support this vital initiative.
What can you do to help protect AYSO players? Ensure that every volunteer completes an application in eAYSO every year so that the individual can be background checked. Also, references and photo ID must be checked for all new volunteers and all volunteers must take AYSO’s Safe Haven.
Regions must also make sure that all communications about AYSO activities are communicated through parents and that coaches/volunteers are monitored for compliance with protection guidelines. Be on the look-out for anyone who violates Safe Haven protection guidelines or who demonstrates extensive favoritism or gift-giving to certain athletes.
Safe Haven will soon release a parent version of the Safe Haven course in order to empower our parents and bystanders to know what to look for and how to help. We want to engage our parents in the fight against child sexual abuse and send a message that AYSO is committed to protecting our children.
To learn more about Safe to Compete and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children see their website: http://www.missingkids.com/home
or any of the following resources.
If you suspect that your child or a child in your care has been sexually abused, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement agency. After making a report to law enforcement, contact one of the organizations below:
• The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline accepts reports of child sexual abuse and assists professionals seeking resources to help them in their missing and sexually exploited child cases. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
o Learn more about it: www.missingkids.com
o Make a report: Call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or visit www.cybertipline.com
• The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline provides professional crisis counselors who can offer a variety of services including emotional support for abuse survivors and information about how to report known or suspected abuse. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
o Learn more about it: www.childhelp.org/pages/hotline-home
o Get support: Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
• Stop It Now!’s confidential, national prevention Helpline assists callers with questions or concerns about child sexual abuse.
o Learn more about: www.stopitnow.org/help#contact
o Get Support: Call 1-888-PREVENT (1-888-773-8368) or submit and email.
Many communities also have local children’s advocacy centers (CACs) that offer coordinated support and services to victims of child abuse (including sexual abuse). To find a CAC in your area, visit the website of the National Children’s Advocacy Center, www.nationalcac.org.