This case involves a 10-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted by the director of his after-school program. It was later discovered that the director had previously been accused of sexually assaulting minors and that the program had not run a background check prior to hiring the director. Additionally, the program did not have many participating students during this particular session so the director was the only adult attending to the children. It was alleged that the program did not develop appropriate protocols to avoid, recognize, and respond to cases of abuse.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. What is your experience with sexual harassment/assault cases in youth organizations?
- 2. How do you ensure that those in contact with minors are properly vetted for prior offenses or other red flags?
Expert Witness Response E-089877
I am a retired YMCA CEO who has worked in the arena of youth sports programs and leagues for 35+ years. I am also a retired director of risk management for an insurance company that only ensures youth-serving organizations. I led a team of 16 risk consultants who worked in the field with over 400 YMCA’s and other organizations. I had the responsibility of developing risk protocols and practices for child-serving organizations in the area of child abuse and sexual harassment. We also developed a best practice protocol where a male and female staff members were member/guest advocates for confidential reporting of concerns.
Best practices in vetting volunteers and other personnel who are in contact with minors include complete background checks (local, state, and national) and an application which asks whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony. All volunteers should provide at least 3 references, of which one of the references should be either a family member or close friend. We have learned that adding a family member or close friend as a reference check typically reveals critical information. All volunteers should be interviewed as if they were applying for a job. Interviewees should be trained to pick up information as to gaps in employment, involvement with other youth-serving organizations, and frequent moves. It is important to follow-up with youth-serving organizations that are provided on the application to verify the quality of service the applicant provided and uncover other issues that might have occurred.
Expert Witness Response E-089467
I have worked with youth-serving organizations for 20 years and I have spent most of my career working with safety procedures and risk management protocols like these. I have served previously as a youth soccer coach and cub scout leader, and I have developed a range of materials regarding appropriate behavior around children. An audit of staff and volunteer personnel files should be a standard procedure in any youth-serving organization. This should include criminal background checks on all volunteers or employees. The organization should have a clearly stated abuse policy, and all coaches should typically sign a code of conduct acknowledging important protocols. For instance, there should be no direct contact via social media, texts, or calls with minors. There should be a program for parental feedback program and appropriate materials to educate parents on where to report improper behavior. All staff and volunteers should undergo abuse prevention training on a regular basis.