Unicef International Safeguards for Children in Sport

In January 2015, MomsTEAM Institute was named by UNICEF UK as a "pioneer organization" to implement in the United States the International Safeguards for Children in Sport.

Based on a set of child safeguarding standards drafted in 2012 by a working group of international youth, sport and development organizations, coordinated by UNICEF UK, with support from UNICEF, and based on the work of the Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) of the United Kingdom's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Children (NSPCC), the Safeguards were formally launched at the Beyond Sport summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2014.

MomsTEAM is among a select group of 40 sport and development organizations from across the globe working with UNICEF UK to further develop, implement and test the safeguards by making them an integral component of MomsTeam Institute's SmartTeamsTM program, a series of best health and safety practices it is currently developing with a group of U.S.-based experts for implementation by sports programs across the country.

Four Goals

The Safeguards aim to:

  1. help create a safe sporting environment for children wherever they participate and at whatever level;
  2. provide a benchmark to assist sports providers and funders to make informed decisions about child safety in sport;
  3. promote good practiced and challenge practiced that are harmful to children; and
  4. provide clarity on safeguarding children to all involved in sport.

Five-step process

In implementing the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, SmartTeams will recommend that youth sports programs follow its five-step process in their journey towards a safer sports experience for youth athletes:

  1. Foundation level. The SmartTeams best practice safeguards are used to raise awareness in a youth sports organization about the need to minimize the risks faced by athletes in the program and inform discussion around the next steps towards implementation.
  2. Preparing to implement. The SmartTeams best practice checklists are used by the participating youth sports organization to conduct a review to identify current strengths and weaknesses in relation to minimizing the risks faced by children in the organization.
  3. Action Planning: A written plan is developed which details the steps which will be taken to implement the SmartTeams best practices and International Safeguards, who is responsible for these actions, and a timeline as to when these actions will be implemented.
  4. Implementation.  Strategies and systems outlined within the SmartTeams best practices and Safeguards are implemented.
  5. Maintaining and Embedding. The SmartTeams program is reviewed on a regular basis (at least every 3 years) and is further developed based on the experiences of children, parents, coaches, and adminstration.  
For a full copy of the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, clickhere(link is external)

Honored to participate

"MomsTEAM Institute and I are honored to be joining such an important coalition of organizations from around the world in working to safeguard children in sport," said Institute Executive Director, Brooke de Lench in January 2015. "I have enormous respect for the work that UNICEF and the CSPC have been doing, and have long advocated for ratification by the United States of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which the Safeguards are designed to support in the context of youth sports."

Unlike almost every other advanced country in the world, the United States lacks any national standards or programs safeguarding the safety of children in sports, de Lench noted. "Our aim, by partnering with UNICEF UK, and in modelling our SmartTeamsTM program on the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, is to fill that vacuum through voluntary implementation by sports organizations across the country, which will also provide the accountability and transparency which is currently lacking."

"From working with parents, coaches, administrators, and other youth sports stakeholders in every state over the past fifteen years, I know that they share my belief that protecting the psychological, emotional, physical and sexual safety of children in sports should always be our number one priority. Implementing the International Safeguards for Children in Sport will help us make that goal a reality."

Liz Twyford, UNICEF UK Sports Programme Specialist and coordinator of the Safeguarding Initiative, said: "All children have the right to participate in sport in a safe and enjoyable environment; it is a crucial part of a happy, healthy childhood. These Safeguards aim to enable everyone involved in sport to stop and think about the risks to children, and have appropriate measures in place to prevent these risks from becoming reality"

"We are really pleased to be working with the MomsTEAM Institute to further this work in the US, particularly given their longstanding leadership in this sector, and look forward to working together to make sport safer for children everywhere."