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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.

Because child abuse reporting laws vary from state to state, a Federal law was recently enacted which established a nationwide standard duty to report suspected child abuse. The “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Act of 2017” mandates that all amateur sports organizations, which participate in an interstate or international amateur athletic competition and whose membership includes any adult who is in regular contact with an amateur athlete who is a minor must report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours to law enforcement. An individual who is required, but fails, to report suspected child sexual abuse is subject to criminal penalties. If an individual suspects a case of abuse within their league, they should report it to the appropriate child services organization and/or local law enforcement as well as, their league president and District Administrator. Information regarding reporting child abuse can be found, at: LittleLeague.org/player-safety.

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 was the first 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:  https://www.littleleague.org/player-safety/child-protection-program/

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 (NCMEC) – on identifying a potential child sex offender. For more info,

Reporting Abuse

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. The “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Act of 2017” mandates that all amateur sports organizations, which participate in an interstate or international amateur athletic competition and whose membership includes any adult who is in regular contact with an amateur athlete who is a minor must report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours to law enforcement.

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 U.S. Center for SafeSport for assisting us in this regard.

U.S. Federal Law

The “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Act of 2017” mandates that all amateur sports organizations, which participate in an interstate or international amateur athletic competition and whose membership includes any adult who is in regular contact with an amateur athlete who is a minor must report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours to law enforcement. According to federal law:

  • An individual who is required, but fails, to report suspected child sexual abuse is subject to criminal penalties.
  • If an individual suspects a case of abuse within their league, they should report it to the appropriate child services organization and/or local law enforcement as well as, their League President and District Administrator.

State Law

Fifty (50) states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws which address mandatory reporting of child abuse to protect the health and safety of children. Little League Baseball, Incorporated has completed a summary of all current existing state laws regarding reporting of child abuse which can be found on our website here.

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? All individuals are required to report abuse. Any individual who fails to report suspected child sexual abuse is subject to criminal penalties.

Who is permitted to report? According to “The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Act of 2017” any individual who suspects a case of abuse within their league, they should report it to the appropriate child services organization and/or local law enforcement as well as, their League President and District Administrator

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.

Additional Resources

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: https://www.childwelfare.gov/contact/

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/.