Jun 12, 2012
AAU Implements Historic Child Protection Measures To Ensure Safety Of Youth Athletes

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Building a new culture in which the “overarching priority” is protecting the well-being of hundreds of thousands of young athletes, the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) today released the comprehensive recommendations of two independent task forces and announced aggressive actions to implement those measures.

The steps include requiring that all adults involved in AAU activities – from volunteer coaches to AAU staff – undergo detailed background checks; adopting clear policies and procedures designed to ensure that young athletes are never left alone with individual adults; and requiring all AAU volunteers and staff to report any incidents of suspected child abuse to law enforcement and to officials of the AAU and related sports clubs.

“The new steps the AAU is taking will safeguard children participating in amateur sports across the country, so that we can continue our proud philosophy of ‘Sports for All, Forever, ‘ ” said national AAU President Louis Stout. “These new steps are not being implemented because we suspect anyone – rather, we must make these changes because we expect everyone to be willing to help us build a deeper trust and culture of safety. “

The AAU, one of the nation’s largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations, is acting assertively to respond to the report from independent task forces it established in December, following reports of suspected child sexual abuse at universities and other institutions around the country. Shortly after assuming leadership of the AAU, President Stout responded to unproven reports of alleged impropriety decades earlier by one of his predecessors. He announced then that the AAU would review and revise its child protection policies to more effectively address threats to youth and better screen adults wishing to participate in AAU programs and events.

In the 31-page report, the task forces – made up of nationally recognized experts in child protection and law enforcement – offered 42 recommendations for changes in AAU policies, procedures and protocols, all designed to make young athletes safer. The recommendations cover six broad subject areas: culture, protocols, screening, participation, training and reporting.

Among the most significant recommendations are:

Culture: The AAU should establish and foster a culture that clearly and explicitly makes child protection an overarching value and priority. This includes requiring all adult volunteers, staff, parents and other youth to report questionable behavior.

Protocols: The AAU should adopt clear policies, procedures and protocols to protect children from abuse and exploitation to the fullest extent possible, including policies to prevent adults from being alone with children and eliminating other opportunities for abuse to occur.

Screening: The AAU should implement significant initial and ongoing screening procedures for all adults who participate in AAU activities to help identify and exclude individuals who may pose a threat to youth participants.

Participation: Anyone who is prohibited from participating in an organization that serves youth or who violates the AAU’s child protection policies should be barred from participating in AAU activities, even if they have not been convicted of a crime.

Training: The AAU should educate staff, adult volunteers, parents/guardians, and youth participants on safety protocols, appropriate vs. inappropriate behaviors and other information they need to keep children safe while participating in AAU activities.

Reporting: All AAU volunteers and staff should be considered mandatory reporters and should be expected to report suspected child abuse to appropriate law enforcement authorities and child abuse hotlines, as well as to AAU authorities.

Shortly after they began their review, the task forces recognized the benefits of working together, resulting in a single report. Serving on the Youth Protection Task Force were Chris Newlin, Executive Director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center; Lauren Book, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, published author and founder of the non-profit organization Lauren’s Kids; and Ron Book, president of Lauren’s Kids Foundation and a specialist in government affairs and administrative law. Members of the Adult/Volunteer Screening Task Force were Tim Moore, the longest-serving Commissioner in the history of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; and Dr. Jim Sewell, a noted author, criminologist and retired Assistant Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Kim Ervin Tucker, a nationally recognized lawyer who has worked in public service for most of her career, coordinated the task forces and assisted in researching and drafting the report.

AAU President Stout said the recommendation likely to have the most immediate impact is the requirement for background screening of AAU staff and of AAU volunteers at the club level. To implement this recommendation, the AAU has contracted with LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a leader in providing essential information that helps customers across all industries and government predict, assess and manage risk. In conjunction with the start of the AAU’s next membership year on September 1, LexisNexis will perform background screenings, upon the AAU’s request, whenever a coach, volunteer or other individual registers for or renews an AAU membership. Almost all AAU memberships will expire and need to be renewed during the registration period, which opens on August 15. Depending on the person, the background check could take just a few minutes or several days to complete.

“Every adult who wants to volunteer or wants to be involved with AAU athletes will be screened, said James Parker, director of operations for the AAU. This screening process will be an effective deterrent to keep the bad guys away.”

Added Henry Forrest, Chair of the AAU Compliance Committee: “LexisNexis is one of the most respected background check screening experts in the industry, and we are pleased to have this partnership to provide fast, accurate background checks to protect children.”

Stout and Parker said the AAU is committed to implementing all the task force recommendations, and emphasized that the most significant benefits will come from a change in culture among those who deal with youth athletes. Even the most dedicated adults who have done nothing wrong – and have never contemplated inappropriate behavior – must learn a new way of conducting themselves, Parker said. Coaches, parents and others will have to reorient themselves on the proper way to interact with youth. Task force recommendations include a “no closed door” policy for AAU activities (for example, when a coach disciplines a young athlete); the presence of two adults at all times during AAU-sponsored programs, events and training; and a ban on secluded, one-on-one contact between adults and youth athletes. Special emphasis is placed on travel for AAU competitions.

To ensure that all adults involved in AAU activities are familiar with the guidelines, the organization will develop a manual of materials focusing on child protection. That information will be placed on the AAU website and the membership registration site, and will be distributed through AAU district organizations, national events, coaches meetings and local activities.

A copy of the report’s Executive Summary is attached. The full task force report is available through the AAU website at www.aausports.org.

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AAU Implements Historic Child Protection Measures To Ensure Safety Of Youth Athletes

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Building a new culture in which the “overarching priority” is protecting the well-being of hundreds of thousands of young athletes, the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) today released the comprehensive recommendations of two independent task forces and announced aggressive actions to implement those measures. The steps include requiring that all adults involved in AAU activities – from volunteer coaches to AAU staff – undergo detailed background checks; adopting clear policies and procedures designed to ensure that young athletes are never left alone with individual adults; and requiring all AAU volunteers and staff to report any incidents of suspected child abuse to law enforcement and to officials of the AAU and related sports clubs. “The new steps the AAU is taking will safeguard children participating in amateur sports across the country, so that we can continue our proud philosophy of ‘Sports for All, Forever, ‘ ” said national AAU President Louis Stout. “These new steps are not being implemented because we suspect anyone – rather, we must make these changes because we expect everyone to be willing to help us build a deeper trust and culture of safety. ” The AAU, one of the nation’s largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations, is acting assertively to respond to the report from independent task forces it established in December, following reports of suspected child sexual abuse at universities and other institutions around the country. Shortly after assuming leadership of the AAU, President Stout responded to unproven reports of alleged impropriety decades earlier by one of his predecessors. He announced then that the AAU would review and revise its child protection policies to more effectively address threats to youth and better screen adults wishing to participate in AAU programs and events. In the 31-page report, the task forces – made up of nationally recognized experts in child protection and law enforcement – offered 42 recommendations for changes in AAU policies, procedures and protocols, all designed to make young athletes safer. The recommendations cover six broad subject areas: culture, protocols, screening, participation, training and reporting. Among the most significant recommendations are: Culture: The AAU should establish and foster a culture that clearly and explicitly makes child protection an overarching value and priority. This includes requiring all adult volunteers, staff, parents and other youth to report questionable behavior. Protocols: The AAU should adopt clear policies, procedures and protocols to protect children from abuse and exploitation to the fullest extent possible, including policies to prevent adults from being alone with children and eliminating other opportunities for abuse to occur. Screening: The AAU should implement significant initial and ongoing screening procedures for all adults who participate in AAU activities to help identify and exclude individuals who may pose a threat to youth participants. Participation: Anyone who is prohibited from participating in an organization that serves youth or who violates the AAU’s child protection policies should be barred from participating in AAU activities, even if they have not been convicted of a crime. Training: The AAU should educate staff, adult volunteers, parents/guardians, and youth participants on safety protocols, appropriate vs. inappropriate behaviors and other information they need to keep children safe while participating in AAU activities. Reporting: All AAU volunteers and staff should be considered mandatory reporters and should be expected to report suspected child abuse to appropriate law enforcement authorities and child abuse hotlines, as well as to AAU authorities. Shortly after they began their review, the task forces recognized the benefits of working together, resulting in a single report. Serving on the Youth Protection Task Force were Chris Newlin, Executive Director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center; Lauren Book, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, published author and founder of the non-profit organization Lauren’s Kids; and Ron Book, president of Lauren’s Kids Foundation and a specialist in government affairs and administrative law. Members of the Adult/Volunteer Screening Task Force were Tim Moore, the longest-serving Commissioner in the history of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; and Dr. Jim Sewell, a noted author, criminologist and retired Assistant Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Kim Ervin Tucker, a nationally recognized lawyer who has worked in public service for most of her career, coordinated the task forces and assisted in researching and drafting the report. AAU President Stout said the recommendation likely to have the most immediate impact is the requirement for background screening of AAU staff and of AAU volunteers at the club level. To implement this recommendation, the AAU has contracted with LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a leader in providing essential information that helps customers across all industries and government predict, assess and manage risk. In conjunction with the start of the AAU’s next membership year on September 1, LexisNexis will perform background screenings, upon the AAU’s request, whenever a coach, volunteer or other individual registers for or renews an AAU membership. Almost all AAU memberships will expire and need to be renewed during the registration period, which opens on August 15. Depending on the person, the background check could take just a few minutes or several days to complete. “Every adult who wants to volunteer or wants to be involved with AAU athletes will be screened, said James Parker, director of operations for the AAU. This screening process will be an effective deterrent to keep the bad guys away.” Added Henry Forrest, Chair of the AAU Compliance Committee: “LexisNexis is one of the most respected background check screening experts in the industry, and we are pleased to have this partnership to provide fast, accurate background checks to protect children.” Stout and Parker said the AAU is committed to implementing all the task force recommendations, and emphasized that the most significant benefits will come from a change in culture among those who deal with youth athletes. Even the most dedicated adults who have done nothing wrong – and have never contemplated inappropriate behavior – must learn a new way of conducting themselves, Parker said. Coaches, parents and others will have to reorient themselves on the proper way to interact with youth. Task force recommendations include a “no closed door” policy for AAU activities (for example, when a coach disciplines a young athlete); the presence of two adults at all times during AAU-sponsored programs, events and training; and a ban on secluded, one-on-one contact between adults and youth athletes. Special emphasis is placed on travel for AAU competitions. To ensure that all adults involved in AAU activities are familiar with the guidelines, the organization will develop a manual of materials focusing on child protection. That information will be placed on the AAU website and the membership registration site, and will be distributed through AAU district organizations, national events, coaches meetings and local activities. A copy of the report’s Executive Summary is attached. The full task force report is available through the AAU website at www.aausports.org .






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