Lawmakers in Colorado took up a tricky topic last week when they considered a bill that would have mandated youth sports groups run background checks on employees and volunteers. The bill, which was debated and ultimately defeated in the Senate judiciary committee, aimed to prevent adults from preying on young children.

In its final writing, the bill was a diluted version of its original form. Senate Bill 48 classified those needing background checks as:

  • employees and volunteers who work with youth “five or more days in a calendar month.”
  • anyone accompanying the youths on an overnight trip

The bill did stipulate that any person with a felony child abuse or felony unlawful sexual behavior conviction would be prohibited from working with any youth sports organization.

If the bill did pass, Colorado would have joined a growing list of states that have active laws on the books requiring background checks for volunteers who work with sports organizations.

With its defeat, youth sports organizations can still decide for themselves when, or if, it’s appropriate to perform background checks on employees or volunteers. Those in favor of the bill extolled the necessity to protect kids from being abused by the very people who were supposed to be taking care of them, however, some people argued the bill didn’t do enough to flag offenders and would be cost-prohibitive or at least an added financial burden to youth sports organizations.

It’s no secret that youth organizations – whether they are athletic, performing arts, musical, religious, community-service oriented – lack, as a whole, the oversight found in schools and day care centers. One glaring example of this that we’ve previously highlighted is the fact that at least SEVEN referees working games for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association have been convicted of serious crimes. One ref is even a convicted sex offender! It’s hard to put a price tag on protecting our kids when you consider this, though:

  • Roughly one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday
  • About 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their victims
  • Approximately 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by people the family trusts.

*Source: Darkness to Light

Yes, background checks costs money and asking youth sports organizations to maintain this burden on their own may be difficult. There are several creative ways around it, though.

It’s entirely acceptable to ask employees and volunteers of your youth sports group to pay for their own background check. If public school districts can get away with this, you certainly can, too. If people really feel passionately about coaching for you, they’ll cough up a few bucks to show they’re clean. Protect Youth Sports has created its own secure, fast, and easy to use solution called Verity Coach Pay that takes the pressure off your organization and asks coaches and volunteers to pay to play.

Consider an online consultation with an accredited screening agency to customize your needs and fit your budget. One-size-fits-all doesn’t apply to background checks and it certainly doesn’t apply to all youth sports organizations. For that reason, we have developed an online consultation solution, so you can select the right volunteer background check. Recommendations include criminal background checks, as well as a ”true” 50 states sex offender registry search, with several states that must be searched by ”name-only” as some states do not provide date of birth on the offenders. A social security number verification is included to verify the correct name and date of birth of the applicant and to alert you to possible mismatches between the name provided by the applicant and the name registered to the social security number. A mismatch could indicate that the applicant is attempting to hide his/her true identity.

Go paperless. VERITY is an all-in-one paperless screening solution for background checks and child safety training. This customizable program reduces paper cost and clutter but increases your protection from identity theft, accidental damages or data loss. Best of all, you can run VERITY from your organization’s own website so there isn’t any additional software costs, and technical assistance is included as well!

We’d love to hear from your youth sports group! What are your biggest concerns when it comes to screening your coaches and/or volunteers? Send us your thoughts below.