The safety and well-being of all participants in the Little League Program is paramount. The Child Protection Program should be used to educate local league volunteers, with the goal of creating local league programs where only those who have the best interests of children in mind are involved.
Some of the important changes include updates from the Federal law, “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Act of 2017.” Many of these items were already included in the Child Protection Program but are now structured in a different manner. Little League Baseball and Softball decided to not only focus on child sexual abuse but all forms of child abuse, including bullying and emotional wellbeing. Leagues should be aware that an additional search is now required to meet the minimum background check standard of Little League Baseball and Softball. Leagues must include a review of the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s Centralized Disciplinary Database and the Little League Ineligible List. Leagues that are utilizing JDP will have this included in the standard Little League New and Returning Volunteer Package. If an individual is listed on either of the above lists, they are prohibited from participating as a volunteer in any capacity.
Little League Baseball and Softball created the Child Protection Program in 1998 and it has been constantly evolving over the last 20 years. The Child Protection Program is now broken into two key components for leagues: a policy and a training tool. The Child Protection Policy strategically includes Little League’s standards of protection of our youth, while the training promotes how leagues can implement the policy. Little League decided to not only focus on child sexual abuse but all forms of child abuse.
Since 2003, local leagues have been required to have all board members, managers, coaches, and other volunteers or hired workers who provide regular service to the league and/or who have repetitive access to or contact with players or teams to fill out the Little League Official Volunteer Application. Additionally, leagues have been required to conduct a background check on each of these individuals. A local Little League must conduct a nationwide background check utilizing JDP or another provider that is comparable to JDP in accessing background check records for sex offender registry data and other criminal records, including a review of the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s Centralized Disciplinary Database and the Little League Ineligible List. Little League Baseball and Softball will require each league to sign an agreement on the charter application that they will comply with Regulation I (b) and I(c) 8 & 9. The leagues are also required to sign a statement on the tournament enrollment form verifying that the process has been completed and implemented. Failure to sign the agreement on the charter application will result in the league not being chartered, and failure to fulfill the requirement of the regulations will result in the league’s status being referred to the Charter/Tournament committee for action to revoke the league’s charter and all privileges.
Any background check that reveals a conviction for, guilty plea, no contest plea, or admission to any crime involving or against a minor must result in immediate termination from the league.
If a potential volunteer appears on the National Sex Offender Registry, the league must contact the Security Manager at Little League International prior to appointing the volunteer to participate in any capacity in the league. If an individual is listed on either of the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s Centralized Disciplinary Database and the Little League Ineligible List. they are prohibited from participating as a volunteer in any capacity.
Additionally, volunteers who refuse to submit a fully completed Little League Volunteer Application, including their Social Security Number and a government-issued photo ID, must be immediately terminated or eliminated from consideration for any position.
If an individual involved with a league, or any activity of the Little League program, is under investigation for any type of child abuse or has a pending charge against, or involving, a minor, they must be suspended until the outcome of the investigation or pending charges are complete and the allegations are resolved.
Even though convictions or other offenses may not be against a minor, the local league Board of Directors still may deem these individuals as inappropriate and/or unfit and may prohibit him/her from working as a hired worker or volunteer within the league. The league should have this information in writing in their by-laws and provide details of what charges are appropriate or inappropriate for a position. For example, if an individual is volunteering for a role as a treasurer but has fraud charges, the league may state they are unfit. If an individual is volunteering for a role as a coach and has DUI, the league may decide they can not drive with players.
The local League President shall only share personal information contained in the volunteer application, background check, or other information obtained through the screening process with other members of the Board of Directors to make personnel decisions. This information should not be publicly distributed and should only be used to determine if the individual is fit or unfit to be a participant.
The individual must first contact local law enforcement if a minor is in immediate danger. The individual should then contact the correct agency in their state. Because child abuse laws vary from state to state, the individual should be educated on their state laws before reporting the abuse. The SafeSport Law states that the report must be made within 24 hours from witnessing the abuse. Once the abuse is reported, the individual should contact their league president and District Administrator, as well as the Security Manager at Little League International.
Even if a league volunteer does not witness the abuse but received the information from a reputable source, they should report the abuse to the correct agencies. Little League volunteers should not attempt to investigate the suspected abuse.
The “Good Faith” policy was put into effect because under the law, fear of retribution should not influence the decision of an adult or minor to step forward to report a potential child abuse claim. The good faith or non-retaliation policy protects an individual from liabilities about a claim even if the claim is found unsubstantiated.
If an individual in the league is found to lie about the abuse, that individual is not protected by the “Good Faith” policy and could face legal troubles. Also, if the individual is a member of the league, they could be removed for not obeying by the local league’s code of conduct.
There is no way to eliminate one-on-one contact with minors but it should be limited. However, there are set guidelines that only approved and appointed volunteers, who have completed the required background checks, should supervise players. Little League International directs leagues to utilize the “buddy system” and promote the practice of having more than one volunteer accompany a minor(s). If there is a one-on-one situation needed between an adult volunteer and a minor, it must be in an open, public environment.
Substantial evidence should be presented to the local Little League board, so the volunteer is aware of his actions. The accused volunteer should understand that this is not acceptable and asked to follow the one-on-one interactions guidelines. If the problem persists, the board should take appropriate actions against the accused volunteer.
Training and Education is an important tool for both Little League children and Little League participants. It empowers them to recognize potentially compromising situations, and it places a barrier between abusers and their victims. Include the Child Protection Policy in your local league’s annual meeting and incorporate the policy into your league’s A Safety Awareness Program (ASAP) safety plan.
The Abuse Awareness training that was created by USA Baseball is not mandatory but highly encouraged. The training is free and includes information from SafeSport in one simple training. If leagues have the opportunity to participate in the Little League tournament, they must validate that the training has been completed prior to the end of the season during the Little League tournament enrollment process.
At this time, the Abuse Awareness training is not an annual training, but little league volunteers should still review the Child Protection Policy every year for updates.
To confirm that the training is adequate, please reach out to the Security Manager at Little League International at 570-326-1921.
Enforcing a “Code of Conduct” for everyone that participates in the league is important so that players, coaches, umpires, parents, etc., understand that the league does not accept any type of harassment. Instilling the “Code of Conduct” and a zero-tolerance policy will allow the league to enforce the rules and remove any individual that does not commit to a safe and encouraging environment at Little League functions.
If an individual has a concern that their local little league is not following the Little League Child Protection Policy, they should contact the Security Manager at Little League International at 570-326-1921.
The goal of the Little League Child Protection Program is to prevent child abuse from occurring through an application screening process for all required volunteers and/or hired workers, ongoing training for its staff and volunteers, increased awareness, and mandatory reporting of any abuse.