Doing background checks on organizations that your children want to be a part of–whether that be a sports team or another type of activity–is incredibly important.

Why? Because, unfortunately, one out of every four girls and one out of every six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. And pedophiles are drawn to places where there are children. All youth sports and activities are such places.

You might be thinking: Shouldn’t the organization itself do these background checks on all employees and other adults associated with their company? Yes, they should, but most don’t–or don’t do a good enough job. In fact, potentially 31% of criminal charges are unreported to organizations that do not utilize a thorough background check.

So what can you do to get started performing them yourself? Here are some suggestions from the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS).

1. Know what a thorough background check entails.

Although most organizations require volunteers–including officials, coaches, and administrators–to undergo some form of a background screening, there often isn’t a standard screening protocol. This can be due to numerous factors, including a lack of resources or a simple lack of knowledge on how to conduct a proper background check. Even public entities like parks and recreation agencies have major variations in their background check methodologies. And some 100% volunteer or parent-run sports leagues or activities may not be screening volunteers at all.

So what does a thorough background check entail? The five components of a thorough screening include a 1. Application Form, 2. Information and Reference Check, 3. Interviews, 4. Criminal History Background Check, and 5. Comparison of Results Against Disqualifiers.

2. Know what disqualifies a potential volunteer.

Next, it’s important to outline a process to determine eligibility to be a volunteer, as well as the factors that can disqualify an individual from serving. While a Criminal History Background Check is important, it’s important to first note that there are many people who do not have a criminal history but may be inappropriate for volunteering.

According to NAYS, these automatic disqualifiers may include:

  • An applicant that provides inaccurate information in their application.
  • References that provide unpleasant or disturbing information about the potential volunteer.
  • Information gathered in the interview that raises questions about the potential volunteer’s motives.
  • The volunteer refuses to complete the screening process.

Next, complete the Criminal History Background Check and determine if an applicant has been convicted, has a pending conviction, or an arrest for any disqualifying offense, including sex offenses and/or misconduct, felonies within the past 10 years, and/or child or domestic abuse.

Talk to your child’s activity organizer or administration to understand what they are doing to protect your child on and off the field. Recommend they work with you to ensure the best possible safety for your family.