Being a Little League® Baseball and Softball volunteer is a wonderfully fulfilling and rewarding personal experience. But sadly, the reality is that Little League, along with every other youth organization, must be diligent in its efforts to help protect the children and fellow volunteers from anyone who commits a crime involving a minor.
Appointment as a Little League volunteer is an annual process and one that every local Little League program should take seriously. Before an individual can be appointed as a Little League volunteer, there are four steps he or she must take:
Anyone interested in volunteering must complete a Little League Volunteer Application, which authorizes the local league or district to annually conduct a national criminal background check and check of the national sex offender registry. Separately, but equally important, and required, are state and federal checks that must be completed to volunteer in a local Little League or district, or at a Little League-sanctioned tournament.
Leagues utilizing the JDP Quick App, as outlined below, for their background check process, the Volunteer Application is integrated into this process to streamline these two requirements.
As outlined in Little League Regulation 1(c) 8 & 9, leagues must conduct a nationwide background check and a search of the National Sex Offender Registry utilizing JD Palatine or another provider that is comparable to JDP in accessing more than 450 million background check records on all board members, managers, coaches, umpires, 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. The JDP Quick App process allows league officials to simply upload their volunteers’ name and email address to the JDP System. JDP will then send a link to those volunteers to complete their volunteer application and background check, eliminating additional paperwork and the need for leagues to gather individual’s social security numbers.
Also, be aware that beginning in 2019, if a potential volunteer appears on the National Sex Offender Registry, the league must contact the Samantha Mahaffey, Security Manager at Little League International prior to appointing the volunteer to participate in any capacity in the league. Mrs. Mahaffey can be reached, at: 570-326-1921; ext. 2211; or smahaffey@LittleLeague.org.
In 2018, the “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017” went into effect by the Federal Government. Generally referred to as the SafeSport law, this national law makes it a crime for an individual involved in a national governing body sports organization, including Little League, to ignore, or not report to the proper authorities, any reason to suspect an act of child abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours.
For volunteers, leagues are highly encouraged to complete the Abuse Awareness training provided by USA Baseball and SafeSport. Please note that, as Little League International continues to work with USA Baseball and SafeSport, additional requirements for Abuse Awareness training may impact volunteers during the Little League International Tournament.
The Abuse Awareness training is just one of four requirements of SafeSport, which also include the reporting of child abuse, including sexual abuse involving a minor, to the proper authorities. Also, leagues must adopt a policy that prohibits retaliation on “good faith” reports of child abuse and a policy that limits one-one-one contact with minors. Little League International is currently working on providing guidance to leagues on being fully SafeSport compliant.
The requirements that are necessary to comply with SafeSport are already included in the Child Protection Program Policy. Leagues should verify that they have reviewed the policy and have the document readily available for any volunteers. Little League International will be continuing to work to provide additional resources, educational materials, and supporting documents to make the adoption of these SafeSport requirements as easy as possible for our volunteers.
4. Adherence to Respective State Laws
Local leagues are required by Little League Regulations to determine the applicability of, and comply with, all federal, state, local and municipal laws and ordinances, and administrative rules and regulations regarding background checks including, but not limited to, requirements regarding sex offender registry checks, criminal history records or reports, fingerprinting, certifications, or other requirements associated with volunteers, coaches, participants and/or employees.
Some state statutes mandate background checks of non-school associated activities for volunteers of youth sports and athletics. Certain municipal ordinances and administrative regulations require background checks. A full list of those state laws can be found at LittleLeague.org/StateLaws.
These four steps help make Little League a welcoming environment for families, and an unwelcoming environment for those who seek to do harm to children. All of these annual approvals are also outlined in the Little League Child Protection Program, which is a diverse effort by Little League to help create a safe and healthy environment for its Little Leaguers®. It is paramount that the adults operating the program at the local and district levels strive to protect the opportunity for young people to grow up happy, healthy, and above all, safe. Whether they are our children or the children of others, each of us has a responsibility to protect them. If there is ever a question about the Little League Child Protection program or the new SafeSport Federal Law, please contact Little League International at 570-326-1921; or firstname.lastname@example.org.