Government Accountability Office Finds that Youth Programs Could Do More to Protect Children
Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that youth sports camps and leagues could be taking more action to protect children from sexual abuse. The report examined federal data that came from activities where children spend many summer hours. The GAO will now look into how youth sports camps screen for sexual abuse and protect campers.
According to Jenny Coleman from the organization Stop It Now, sexual predators will often target youth sports camps because that is where many children are most likely to be. The GAO discovered that while most summer camps and sports leagues do have some procedures in place to screen for potential sexual abuse, nothing exists on a statewide or national level.
Many sports organizers falsely believe that sexual predators can be weeded out based upon an examination of their demeanor and appearance. This is patently false. An adult that seeks to abuse children can look like anybody.
Without a national policy in place that lists specific questions that would screen for potential sexual abusers, parents are left with the task of questioning camps and employees to ensure their children's safety, a protocol that could leave many children at risk.
Youth Sports Camps and Leagues Have a Duty to Keep Children Safe
Youth sports camps and leagues are legally required to take all reasonable steps necessary to keep their children and young athletes safe. If a camp fails to appropriately screen employees and volunteers, and a child is sexually abused or otherwise injured while in the care of the camp, the youth facility should be held accountable. Sexual abuse is devastating to young children and can cause an array of mental and emotional suffering, the need for long term counseling and psychological effects.
While the GAO has taken the first step in the right direction in pushing youth camps to follow a nationwide protocol for screening, parents should continue to thoroughly investigate youth camps and leagues, conduct their own background checks and instruct their children as to the dangers of sexual abuse while away at camp.
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