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Congress is poised to take action following several high-profile sexual abuse cases involving coaches, doctors, and others in amateur and collegiate sports. A new federal law aiming to prevent sexual abuse in youth sports creates standards for all youth sport organizations, including programs offered by local leagues, churches, schools, camps, and non-profits. The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 includes requirements for prevention training, prevention policies, and mandatory reporting. Here is a brief overview of the new requirements that all youth sports organizations must take.
1. Mandatory Reporting Changes
The Act expands the list of individuals required to report child sexual abuse. The list of mandatory reporters now includes any adult who is authorized to interact with a minor or amateur athlete at an amateur sports organization facility or event. For some organizations, the Act also requires all adults to immediately report suspicions of abuse to the US Center for Safe Sport and the appropriate law enforcement agencies, as determined by state and federal law.
Each state has a reporting statute related to child abuse and neglect. Some states require every adult to report suspicions of abuse and neglect while other states list categories of individuals or circumstances triggering a mandatory report. It is imperative that each youth sport organization understands the new federal obligations, as well as the respective state-specific obligations.
2. Prevention Training Requirements
All amateur sports organizations are now required to provide consistent training on prevention and reporting of child abuse to all adult members who are in regular contact with amateur athletes who are minors. There is a fundamental distinction between 'prevention training' and 'abuse indicators' or 'abuse recognition' training: one is proactive, the others are reactive. Abuse indicators and recognition trainings provide signs, traits, behaviors, and indicators that may reveal a child has been abused. Prevention training provides information related to behaviors and circumstances (i.e., unsupervised one-on-one interaction) that may place a child at risk of abuse. Effective prevention training allows adults to see and recognize problematic behaviors before the child is abused.
3. Prevention Policies Requirements
All amateur sports organizations are now required to establish prevention policies that include reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between an amateur athlete who is a minor and an adult without being in an observable and interruptible distance from another adult.
Available Resources to Help
These changes present challenges for youth sports organizations that often rely on volunteers. It is important for youth sports organizations to understand these new requirements, take advantage of available resources, and take action to comply.