US Youth Soccer and Wyoming Youth Soccer, as well as the other 53 state associations, have worked hard to raise the bar for protecting players. Beginning with the use of disclosure forms followed by the extensive use of background checks has helped us strengthen our ability to keep youth safe. However, we can’t rely on what may be a wall of false security. The statistics show that we cannot completely protect every player, so we need to be sure to involve the most important individual of all - The Vigilant Parent.<br>
Kidsafe Program - Working Hard to Protect Players!
In 1994, US Youth Soccer instituted the Kidsafe Program whose express purpose is to foster a safe atmosphere for every child who participates in any US Youth Soccer/Wyoming Youth Soccer affiliated activity. At minimum the Kidsafe Program requires every adult who will be in contact with children while participating in any sanctioned or sponsored program of US Youth Soccer/Wyoming Youth Soccer and their affiliated organizations complete and submit a criminal disclosure statement. In addition, many US Youth Soccer state associations, leagues, clubs, and teams do criminal background checks, review websites that track sex offenders and even mandate drug testing. Each state association and their affiliated clubs and leagues must identify a Risk Management Coordinator (RMC) and an alternate.
Yet no matter how many checks and requirements risk managers implement, we still need to educate and empower the most important person in risk management – the parent. Parents are irreplaceable. No rule, law or policy can replace an empowered, proactive parent. Criminal records only flag those with a criminal history; for a report to be available a person must first be arrested, tried, and convicted. Many children are harmed before a pedophile or sexual predator is arrested. A vigilant parent can stop child abuse before it happens.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Educate administrators, coaches, and PARENTS.
Fact: The pedophile child molester commits, on average, 281 acts with 150 different children.
Fact: Sexual abuse is not a problem that only affects girls.
- In Texas, a convicted child molester told police that he had molested 240 children before he was caught. He then went on to say that if he were released and had the opportunity he would continue to molest children.
- Although 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18, 1 in 6 boys are also sexually abused before the age of 18. In addition 30% to 40% of abusers are a family member while 50% are abused by someone they trust, from outside the family.
Know the risks.
Modern technology provides new ways to reach youth:
- Websites and social networking sites, picture posting sites, texting and email, videos, blogs
- 71% of American adults go online, including 87% of parents
- 93% of American teens, aged 12 to 17, use the Internet
- 73% of all families have broadband at home
It is very easy for a team to create a website using website design templates or online software, or access a school, business, or private site. However, there are risks to having a website. These sites can be used by predators to help them identify, single out, and make contact with a victim – whether at the victim’s home or a team event. Be very careful about what it posted on the site and how much information is released. See the following for some examples of too much information.
Important There will not be practice tomorrow (Wednesday). Thursday’s game at Kiwanis Park begins at 5:30 pm. Please have your daughter there by 4:15 pm. They are to wear their blue uniform.
TIP: Game and/or practice details should be in a secure area on the site or be password protected.
Practice on Sunday! Congratulations on the win over Arizona! Also, if Ashley used to text your daughter schedule changes please have her resend Ashley her number. Her phone died and we were unable to retrieve the numbers. Ashley's cell is 888-555-1234.
TIP: Do not include player phone numbers or email addresses on a website. Again, that info should be in a secure area on the site or be password protected.
Recognize the types of people who prey on youth.
The Pedophile – a fixated, seductive, sexual offender; this is the person who:
- Creates and seeks opportunities for access to children – He/she can coach; he/she can referee.
- Has tremendous aptitude for identifying children’s needs and vulnerabilities; may also identify a parent’s needs. For example, may offer to coach special skills to a struggling team or player.
- Is manipulative and seductive; will take the time to gain the child’s and parents’ trust before acting; they work towards a goal. Unfortunately, they can be so successful that even after they have been caught and charged, there will be some parents who have such trust in that person they will continue to defend them.
- Creates “special” relationships.
- Convinces a child to distrust other adults.
- They offer success. They say what parents and players want to hear; they know that by offering success – by taking advantage of the needs and desires of both parents and players, they will get the access they seek.
The sexual harasser and sexual exploiter most often prey on older adolescents and young adults who make sexual behavior, sexual advances or romantic involvement a part of the terms and conditions of participation. This can happen simply by allowing inappropriate behavior to exist and continue.
Eventually the youth begin to feel that their playing time, team membership, recommendations, or other benefits are based on close or sexual relationships. Remember, there is no such thing as a consensual sexual relationship between an adult and a youth or a coach and a player. It is the responsibility of every adult that works with youth to maintain relationships that have firm, clear boundaries.
The molester, the abductor, the sexual psychopath is the one all over the news and is every parent’s worst nightmare. This predator is the reason to not put children’s names on their uniforms. Because our children are often in public places we must be alert to the slim possibility of a kidnapping and/or violent assault. These predators target:
- Children on whom they become fixated or obsessed, often from a distance, and a name on a uniform puts a name to the child.
- Vulnerable, exposed, unsupervised, or easily manipulated children who are often very young.
- Parks, playgrounds, school yards and sports fields are places where such a predator can strike.
What Can You Do? A Vigilant Parent Uses These Strategies:
- Check references. Don’t be afraid to ask a coach, assistant coach, trainer or administrator about their previous experience.
- Question changes in the coach/player relationship especially regarding increased social interaction. There is a difference between team activities and coach/player activities.
- Do not encourage activities that allow a coach or a trainer to be alone with a single child.
- Be wary of a coach with rigid age preferences.
- Create an environment where players know that they will be supported if they need help with anything that makes them uncomfortable or unsure. Assure them that there are multiple avenues of support and make sure they know how to get that support.
- Conduct “exit interviews” with players who withdraw from a team without explanation.
- Be involved by first being involved with your child. Talk to him or her. Know what’s happening in their life, with their team and their friends.
- Be visible yet not intrusive. That is how others will know you’re there.
- Be active protecting children. Your child will appreciate it and you will help keep your child and others safe.
Protect youth from molesters/abductors
- Never leave young children unsupervised, even in a “safe” place.
- Teach children to check with a parent before going anywhere with another adult.
- Give your child permission to run from adults who make them feel uncomfortable.
- Never let children go to public restrooms unescorted.
- Never leave a child alone, or with just one adult, while waiting for a ride following a practice or game.
- Approach unfamiliar adults who appear to be watching the children during a game or practice. Strike up a conversation; ask them who they are and why they’re there.
Protect youth from sexual exploitation and harassment
- Establish and enforce a policy to monitor activities that involve adults and youth.
- Establish and enforce guidelines on differences between team activities and social activities.
- Do not tolerate flirtation, banter, teasing or other conduct that blurs the boundaries between adults and youth.
- Make sure parents are involved and included in team activities, particularly social activities.
- Be available to take part in activities, to wait for a parent to pick up their child and to observe practices and team activates – just don’t interfere with the coaching!
Watch for indicators, such as
- A coach or other adult who seeks personal intimacy with a player or discloses intimate, personal or emotional feelings to a player.
- A coach or other adult who “courts” a player or responds in kind to flirting or seductive behavior. This can be in person, by email or text.
- A coach or other adult who often texts or emails individual players. Texts should also go to the parent or the whole team.
- A coach or other adult who makes excessive or unequal physical contact with one player.
If You Suspect a Child Is Being Harmed - Be Brave Enough To Act
What NOT to do
- Don’t jump to conclusions
- Don’t gossip
- Don’t speculate
Any of those actions will make the situation worse. Adults have the responsibility to protect youth. And, as a soccer administrator, coach, team parent – the vigilant parent, you must take this responsibility seriously.
What to DO – When it’s NOT your child:
- Carefully document your concerns. Keep track and make notes of what you observe and when you observe it.
- When you feel they are legitimate, take your concerns forward. Start at the appropriate level within the club. If you feel the need, continue along the chain of adults, at the club, state and regional level, who are tasked with handling these issues.
- Speak out. If you are comfortable doing do, tell the child’s parents of your concerns. Be specific by describing things you have observed and expressing your concern for the child’s well being.
- Talk to the coach or adult involved. If you’ve observed some red flags, it may be appropriate to make the individual aware. Begin the conversation by showing your concern for THEM.
What to DO – When it’s your child:
- Document and move forward.
- Speak to your child. If you are uncomfortable, have another adult speak to your child with you in the room. Try to normalize the conversation but do not lead the discussion. It may be helpful to start your questions with “sometimes, when kids feel uncomfortable…” and then ask them if that is how they feel.
- If you feel your suspicions are justified, tell your child you believe him or her and will help. Then involve a qualified adult, such as child protective services or law enforcement.
What to DO - For any child:
Remember, involvement by healthy, caring adults – of vigilant parents – is the best form of risk management.
- If you have genuine concerns, don’t stop if an adult, coach or parent else tells you not to worry; continue to move forward.
- Involve law enforcement or contact the child protection organizations in your state. Don’t be afraid to call if you feel your concern is valid. You may be able to do so anonymously. In fact, you may be mandated by state law to report suspected child abuse and neglect.