“How do I communicate with this high school girl?”

I recently got a text from a friend of mine. (We’ll call him Sebastian.)

I practically did a jig when I read Sebastian’s text. He and his wife are long-time friends…almost like family…so they know what I do for a living and we have had many conversations over the years. When I called him to talk about his question, he said, “See…I have learned some things from you through the years!”


Conversations matter! You hear me repeatedly ask (beg?) people to talk about child sexual abuse prevention. Now you can see why.

  1. It creates community and reduces a sense of isolation that can come with youth protection (all the cool kids are doing it!);
  2. It shows anyone who has ill-intent with your children that this is not something your family sweeps under the carpet; and
  3. We can actually learn from each other!

Back to the story…

“How do I communicate with this high school girl?” I honestly felt the angst in his question.

Let’s keep it simple…include her mother. “Of course!” exclaimed Sebastian. “Of course!”

Text the girl and ask for her mom’s cell number so you can create a group text. Then take a screenshot of said text so you can show (if ever needed) the content of your only 1:1 conversation with her.

Then start the group text explaining that because ‘girl’ is a minor, you’d like to include her mother in all conversations.  That way the girl, her mom and you are all on the same page moving forward.

Simple, right?

Not so much. You have no idea how much pushback I get on this policy/practice from organizations and coaches. Nobody ever has a good reason not to do this, other than…it’s not how they have always done it.

There shouldn’t be any out-of-program communication between coaches and minor athletes, and if there is program-related communication, make sure it isn’t 1:1. Include the whole team or your assistant coach or a parent.


If you are uncomfortable asking this question out-of-the blue, I have a few suggestions for you; feel free to pick whichever one most resonates with you.

  1. Please don’t be. Your most important job is protecting your child; not making a sports organization administrator comfortable.
  2. So? For some people, these conversations never become ‘comfortable’ so we have to figure out how to step through our discomfort to do what we need to do for our child.
  3. The best organizations have such a policy and are happy to answer this question.

If they don’t have a policy on coach and minor athlete communication? Then they probably don’t have any athlete protection policies & procedures, which is an entirely separate blog. This is the opportunity to let them know this is important to you and it’s something you will look for next season or next enrollment.

And, parents…whether the organization has this policy or not, please make it a family rule that if an adult ever reaches out to your child, they are expected to loop in mom or dad. They don’t have to make a big deal about it; they just add you to the communication. This should be the rule if your child is 6 or 16 years old.

When you’re ready, let me know when I can help your family, organization or community protect our youth with Child Sexual Abuse Prevention & Response Training or Youth Protection Policies & Procedures.

4 Reasons Why Background Checks Get More Credit Than They Deserve

If I had a nickel for every time I was told, very proudly and boldy, “We do background checks” when I signed up my kids for a sports team, summer camp or afterschool program…

Well, I’d have a whole lot of nickels.

You see, background checks get a lot more credit than they deserve.

Why, you ask? I have 4 good answers, but the most important one is: 

A background check reveals only when a person has been convicted of a crime. Not arrested for a crime and not when there is a plea bargain. (BTW, plea bargains happen quite a lot in child sexual abuse cases to prevent the child from having to testify in front of their abuser.)

Think for just a minute how many child predators actually get caught. Then think about how often there is enough evidence to arrest a person; and charge them; and then convict them.

Additionally, an individual could be arrested multiple times, but if they are never convicted, their background check comes back squeaky clean.

Reasons #2, #3, and #4 that background checks are too heavily relied upon: Background checks are not created equally. For example, does the background check…

flag felonies and misdemeanors? Or just felonies?

search a national data base? Or just state or county records?

flag convictions other than crimes against children? Domestic violence? Indecent exposure?

So, do I think background checks are useless?  Absolutely not. They are a very important part of the hiring process. They just shouldn’t be the entire hiring process. 

Youth serving organizations need to research and be very intentional about what level of background check they are using with their candidates, and parents need to be informed what exactly is searched and what is not.

Background checks are a very important data point, but they are most effective as one data point in a comprehensive hiring process.

Next time you sign up your child for an activity, be sure to ask about their child protection policies and when they proudly and boldly answer, “We do background checks!” you can now ask them what kind.

 And your child will be safer for it.