In March 2013 representatives from more than 50 of the nation’s largest youth-sports organizations convened at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. They discussed child sexual exploitation and shared the best practices they employ to protect young athletes.
Participants encouraged the use of mandatory background checks and comprehensive policies and procedures. They discussed the need for:
- Increasing national awareness of child sexual abuse issues.
- Increasing communication between organizations.
- Increasing expectations for parent/guardian involvement.
At the conclusion of the 2-day summit, every organization agreed that youth-serving organizations need to create environments that put offenders at risk.
NCMEC stands ready to assist in these efforts. Following the summit, we summarized the ideas discussed into the document "An Introduction to Sound Practices for Keeping Children Safer in Youth-serving Organizations." Please read it and contact us with other resources which we can share with the entire youth-sports community. Working together we can create a safer environment for all of our children.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
What Organizations Are Saying...
Our children should always be a priority as they are our future. When they participate in athletics, we expect them to be free from sexual abuse. Medical research has proven that child sexual abuse, one of the most egregious adverse childhood experiences, can lead to poor school performance, high risk behaviors and ultimately, an increased incidence of serious diseases, such as cancer, obesity and diabetes. Safe to Compete: Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse will serve as a think tank to develop strategies to keep children safer.
If we are serious about protecting children from abuse, we have to report it. All of us – professionals as well as citizens. Most of our states do not require everyone to report. Until we do, our rhetoric on child protection has a hollow ring.
The first rule of every sports organization is to ‘Do No Harm’ and the second rule is ‘Allow No Harm’ to its players. It is the responsibility of every sports organization to be educated about child sexual abuse issues and put preventive policies in place. Coaches play an important role in the lives of young people and are in a unique position to recognize, prevent and react to threats of child sexual abuse. The Safe to Compete: Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse summit represents an incredible opportunity to learn from leading experts in the field and then apply sound practices to your organization. As a child abuse survivor myself, my hope is that no official or coach will ever have to utter the regretful words used by Coach Joe Paterno, "I wish I had done more."
It has become clear to me that the best way to prevent abuse, bullying and harassment in sport, is to certify all coaches, parents, officials and athletes. It is also imperative to empower and educate stakeholders. I am excited to participate in the Safe to Compete: Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse summit where like-minded advocates will be sharing best practices to better protect youth involved in sport.
Promoting a safe environment for children and athletes involves everyone from the organization to coaches, parents, clubs and athletes. USA Gymnastics has instituted a number of policies and procedures, like the Participant Welfare Policy and Clubs Care campaign, to empower the gymnastics community in this area.
Coaches are placed in a position of tremendous trust. It’s vital for all of us that they honor and respect that position for the sake of their athletes and their community.
USA Hockey has worked hard to be a leader in youth sports as it relates to participant safety. We applaud the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for putting on this conference and look forward to learning and sharing best practices with other attendees to positively affect children's welfare.
Estimates suggest that more than 41 million children and teens participate in youth-sports every day. The Safe To Compete: Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse summit for national youth-sports organizations is both timely and critical. This is a unique opportunity to shine a light on positive safety approaches that can build upon organizations' current strategies, to further enhance the safety of our nation's youth.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children continues to be a national leader on efforts intended to ensure the safety of our nation's children and teens. Their upcoming Safe To Compete: Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse summit for national youth-sports organizations represents the first meeting of its kind. It is a significant opportunity for organizations to bring their vast experience and expertise to the table and to benefit from collaborative opportunities as well as input from a variety of national experts. The summit represents a huge opportunity to move the field forward and add to the strengths of what youth-sports organizations have already put in place.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® is a private, (501)(c)(3) nonprofit organization which was created in 1984. The mission of the organization is to serve as the nation’s resource on the issues of missing and sexually exploited children. The organization provides information and resources to law enforcement, parents, children, including child victims, as well as other professionals.
The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation uses baseball- and softball-themed programs to help build character and teach critical life lessons to underserved youth residing in America’s most distressed communities. Founded in 2001 by members of the Ripken family in memory of their patriarch Cal, Sr., the Foundation works to create programs that positively impact at-risk youth through active community partnerships with America’s most successful youth service organizations. The Ripken Foundation uses the baseball and softball field to help teach life’s critical lessons such as perseverance, loyalty, nutrition, hard work and leadership to young people residing in disadvantaged communities. In 2012, the Foundation impacted more than 154,000 youth in 47 states around the country through Badges for Baseball.