Little League Guidelines on Reporting Abuse
This information is being provided to local Little Leagues and Districts as a guide to whether and when to report child abuse and neglect.
Background of Little League’s Child Protection Program
For more than a decade, Little League has led the way among youth sports organizations in assisting local leagues to keep child sex offenders out of the program.
Little League remains the only national youth baseball/softball program to mandate a check of the applicable sex offender registry. Additionally, Little League provides each local Little League with 125 free checks of a national criminal database. More information on that program can be found here: http://www.littleleague.org/learn/programs/childprotection.htm
But background checks themselves can only weed out those who have already been convicted of crimes. That is why Little League also provides advice – based on information from the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – on identifying a potential child sex offender. For more info, download the Parents Guide to Child Protection (PDF).
We have recently received inquiries concerning steps local league parents and volunteers can take to help keep children safe and, in particular, when and how to report child abuse and neglect. Reporting abuse, under national/federal and/or state or provincial law, can vary from one place to another.
Below is a summary of information available from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) (www.childwelfare.gov), as well as links to state definitions, statutes, and resources. Note, however, that countries and states/provinces frequently amend their laws.
Reporting laws reflect parents’ and volunteers’ paramount obligation to protect children from maltreatment. While the requirements listed below are the legal minimums, we encourage local league personnel to take immediate action if they believe the health or welfare of a child is at stake. If there are questions concerning reporting in your country and state/province, we encourage you to consult with an attorney.
Little League thanks the United States Olympic Committee for assisting us in this regard.
U.S. Federal Law
Federal legislation – the U.S. Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 – sets minimum standards for defining child abuse and neglect for those States that accept federal funding. Under federal law, the minimum acts or behaviors constituting child abuse and neglect by parents and other caregivers are:
- “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation”; or
- “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
As noted, whether to report child abuse and neglect under state law depends upon several factors:
What is “child abuse and neglect”? Although federal legislation sets minimum standards for defining child abuse and neglect, the definitions of child abuse and neglect vary by state. It is thus critical that you work with your attorney to determine (1) what law governs your reporting obligations; and (2) what the law was when the alleged child maltreatment occurred.
Who is required to report? Many states identify professionals who are required to report child maltreatment (“mandatory reporters”) – e.g., social workers and teachers. Note, however, that who constitutes a mandatory reporter varies by state. In addition, several states also require any person who suspects child abuse or neglect to report, regardless of profession.
Who is permitted to report? Your legal obligations may vary with your ethical obligations. For those states that do not require all persons to report suspected abuse or neglect, any person is permitted to report (“permissive reporters”). Be aware that certain professions also have their own professional codes of conduct that they must follow and that may affect how and when an individual may report.
What is the standard for reporting? The circumstances under which a mandatory reporter is required to report vary by state. The DHHS summarizes two typical reporting standards, for both mandatory and permissive reporters: (1) “the reporter, in his or her official capacity, suspects or has reasons to believe that a child has been abused or neglected”; and (2) the reporter has knowledge of, or observes a child being subjected to, conditions that would reasonably result in harm to the child.” Again, work with your attorney to determine when you are required to or should make a report to a state agency.
Is the communication privileged? Some states identify when a communication is privileged, i.e., there is a right to maintain a confidential communication between a professional and their client or patient. However, this privilege is greatly restricted for mandatory reporters. For instance, states commonly provide that the physician-patient privilege is superseded by the requirement to report child abuse.
Will the report be anonymous? Most states permit anonymous reports.
Will the reporter’s identity be disclosed? If a reporter does disclose his/her identity, many states protect the identity of the reporter from disclosure to the alleged perpetrator. In some cases, however, a reporter’s identity may be released (i.e., by court order or by waiver and/or consent).
We also encourage parents and volunteers to read more about abuse and neglect, familiarize themselves with the resources available to report abuse, and learn about the counseling and referral services that are available.
To read more about mandatory reporting, with a summary of state reporting laws, visit: http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/manda.cfm
For state (toll-free) child abuse reporting numbers, visit: http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?rs_id=5&rate_chno=W-00082
To search the definitions of child maltreatment by state, visit: http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/
For crisis assistance, counseling, and referral services:
Childhelp is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453), or visit http://www.childhelp.org/.