May 4, 2016, 12:40 PM by

*We want to thank our community for its support, but this bill was unfortunately killed in the Senate committee. And a very special thanks to Sen. Rollie Heath and Rep. Jonathan Singer for trying, once again, to keep our children safe.

What is the one thing we worry about most when we send our kids into the care of other adults? We worry about how we can protect our kids from sexual predators. We worry about how we walk the line between acting appropriately as parents and overreacting, between smothering our kids and protecting them.

Part of our defense is to trust the organizations to which we send our kids. My bet is that you assume the YMCA background checks our staff and volunteers (yes, we do!). However… SURPRISE! Checks such as fingerprinting and the TRAILS database are only required in our licensed childcare departments. Of course, being the Y, we go above and beyond the required checks. We run all of our staff and volunteers through background-check systems, including the National Criminal and Sex Offender Database. We also run all members through the Raptor sex offender database.

But, as I said before, parents have an expectation that all kid-centric organizations are required to check their staff and volunteers against the sex offender database. That’s a big NOPE! Organizations don’t have to check their staff, volunteers or coaches unless they are a state-licensed childcare program. How many soccer teams, swim teams, single focus camps and other youth-serving organizations are licensed by the state? Barely any.

Last year, Sen. Rollie Heath and Rep. Jonathan Singer tried to get the state legislature to pass a law requiring youth sports organizations to check their youth-serving staff against the national sex offender database. It was defeated along party lines.

Fast forward to this year: The indomitable and refreshingly optimistic Sen. Heath and Rep. Singer are trying once again to get the bill passed (House Bill 16-1443). However, this time the bill was altered in hopes of getting it passed—now requiring every youth sports organization to notify parents if they background check or not. The bill has been assigned to the Senate State Affairs Committee, and it'll be voted on Monday, May 9, at 1:30pm (*See note above for updates on this bill).

The bill would have minimal financial impact for businesses. Despite that, one representative who is opposed to the bill said the “free market” will sort this out when parents choose where to send their kids.

Unintentionally, our representatives are saying that we must wait for the free market to respond before they will take action. The market does not respond until there is an actual incident; in this case, that means an incidence of child abuse. It horrifies me to think that we have elected officials who believe that the safety of our children is not their responsibility. It should not be a parent's sole responsibility to track down an organization's background-check practices. This is the reason we have a government: to protect the community. Our government already requires background checks for state-licensed childcare providers; now they need to finish the job.

Every YMCA in the state of Colorado background-checks their staff, so I know for a fact that it is not an undue financial burden. I realize that many believe we live in a “nanny-state” and there is a segment in the Capital that wants to diminish the reach of the government. I actually applaud that sentiment.

However, that does not mean we should turn off our common sense. This is good legislation. Yes, I think it is too soft, but it is an improvement. It requires youth sports businesses and organizations to make their policies clear to parents. It puts the burden on the parents to read the sign. Yes, a business will have to add a couple of lines to their website and maybe spend $25 on a sign — but it'll be worth the effort.

Remember, this should not be a partisan issue. It is a safety issue. If you buy food from a restaurant, you have an expectation that the food you eat will be safe, and their are checks in place to help ensure with that. Why can't we have this same expectation for youth programs?

The YMCA of Boulder Valley spends on background checks approximately $17.50 per volunteer and $8 per staff member who does not work in licensed childcare programs. With hundreds of volunteers and staff members, it does add up. But it's important for us to ensure that our kids our safe.

Click here to read the bill; it is very short and not hard to read. Or click here to watch a spot that Fox31 News did on the state committee hearing about the bill. Jim Hiner, the CEO of the Denver Y, is featured in it.

I know that our political system is messy right not, but there are moments when we need to remind ourselves to take action. There are times when we must get involved.


Thank You, 
Chris Coker 
CEO/President of YMCA of Boulder Valley