Protecting young athletes from abuse

Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden looks on as the rugby, boxing and netball presidents sign.

Sporting associations in the Cayman Islands now have to comply with a new Child Abuse Prevention Policy, which was launched this week.

The policy – mandated by the provisions of the Children Law (2012 Revision) (Section 32A) – was drafted by senior civil servants in the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) within the Ministry of Community Affairs, Youth and Sports. The legislation requires that certain people, including officials of National Sports Associations and member clubs, report suspicions of child abuse to the DCFS.

“The policy sets a standard for ensuring that reasonable steps are taken to safeguard the physical and emotional well-being of young persons while in a club or association’s care,” said Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden.

“Shielding our children from harm and the risk of abuse is both a statutory obligation and one for which all civic-minded persons are jointly accountable. We all share a profound duty of care to act responsibly and with urgency in protecting our children from harm,” he added.

DCFS Director Felicia Robinson said the policy “recognises that the welfare and interest of children is paramount in all circumstances and establishes that adults with a responsibility for children have a mutual and legal duty for ensuring their protection and care.”

Key to ensuring the policy is understood and implemented smoothly will be training sessions run by the DCFS. The first round of these start this month – 9 February in Cayman Brac and 16-23 February in Grand Cayman.

In October, the draft version of the document was sent out for consultation. All aspects of the policy were discussed by the major stakeholders including the Cayman Islands National Sports Association and its affiliated associations and clubs.

Input was sought as the policy requires that each association appoints a Child Protection Officer for its association and that all clubs – within the association – appoint a child protection officer for reporting purposes. The policy makes it clear that all national sports associations and club child protection officers must be DCFS-trained before taking up their roles.

“As Minister of Community Affairs, Youth and Sports, I look forward to working constructively with the national sports associations and all their member clubs in carrying out this delicate and necessary duty,” Mr Bodden told a press conference on Wednesday.

Officials in national associations and clubs are required to report any concerns or suspicions of abuse of under-18s to Child Protection Officers within their respective association or club. The Child Protection Officers have an obligation to facilitate the forwarding of all reports of suspicion of child abuse as soon as possible to the DCFS, the statutory body responsible for the prevention, investigation and management of child abuse matters.

“I never dreamt, when I was a teenager, that we would have a need for such a policy. Playing sports as a youngster…we grew up around well-meaning people, people who looked after us like our parents when they weren’t available. But we’ve come to the point in the development of these islands that such a policy is necessary,” the Sports Minister said.

The policy is launched as at least one sporting coach is wanted before the court for alleged inappropriate conduct toward a girl who was a member of his athletics club. A football coach was also convicted of sex crimes with a young player.

As well as outlining the reporting of suspected child abuse, the policy sets out a definition of abuse, clarifies confidentiality concerns and defines clearance certificate requirements for volunteers, officials and visiting volunteers and officials.

The policy also explains the associations’ and clubs’ due diligence obligations to not only report child abuse but also take all steps possible to prevent abuse occurring in the first place.

The presidents of the Cayman Islands Netball Association, Cayman Islands Boxing Association and Cayman Rugby Football Union were on hand for the press conference and signed on to the policy. It’s expected others will follow suit. will have more on the policy and the implications in a subsequent story.

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