Coach and Volunteer Background Checks are Not Enough
Protecting kids is a community effort.
We thought it would be good to reinforce the content of a recent Albany Times Union article, titled “Questions we also should be asking,” written by Mark McGuire.
Performing a nationwide background check to vet your coaches and volunteers that come in contact with children is one of the basic things that every sports organization should be doing. There are numerous services on the market that can accomplish this within the budgets of most volunteer-operated sports league, and we have written about some of the considerations in a previous blog post. That said, performing criminal background screening is only one aspect of having an effective risk management program.
The Transportation Security Administration (a.k.a. TSA) is not the end-all answer to preventing terrorism, but logic dictates that we need to be screening passengers before they get on their flights. Some might not agree on their methods, but most agree that screening passengers is common sense. On the loudspeaker in the airport you might hear the message “…if you see something out of the ordinary, report it to the police or call 911.” This is calling on citizens to be both aware and vigilant, because the “system” is not enough to protect us.
This logic can be extended to youth sports coaches and volunteers. Like most airline passengers, the overwhelming majority of folks volunteering their time to help kids learn how to play/compete are good people. It is the bad ones that ruin it for everyone – and that is why all parents need to be both aware and vigilant, as should your board of directors when it comes to creating and enforcing risk management policy.
To keep our kids safe we cannot rely on the “system” to always do the job. That means if you as a parent know something about a coach or someone in contact with children, say a recent arrest, they should let it be known to your league’s safety officer as criminal records often take time to percolate into the aggregators databases. Don’t assume 100% of arrests and criminal records will instantly appear in a background check – it takes some time for court records to percolate into aggregated criminal databases.
If your organization can afford more extensive local searches (beyond a national-level search), do it. If someone in law enforcement is part of your organization, and volunteers to do more extensive checking, welcome it. The bottom line here is to utilize whatever information you can get your hands on, and avoid reliance on a single source of information.
There is no end-all solution that can guarantee safety. Minimizing risk for everyone in your organization is a community problem – and will take a community effort to stay as safe as possible.