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USA Swimming Releases Self-Commissioned Review of Safe Sport Program by Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center

1/27/2014

Safe Sport (small)USA Swimming today released a self-commissioned, independent review of its Safe Sport program conducted by the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. The report, “When the Athlete is a Child: An Assessment of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Program,” was compiled by Victor Vieth, executive director of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center and one of the nation’s foremost experts on the prevention of child neglect and abuse.
 
Following the presentation of the report at the USA Swimming Board of Director’s meeting on January 25, an eight-person task force was appointed to review the findings and make recommendations for implementation. The task force will present its findings and next steps at the USA Swimming Board Meeting on May 3.

The independent review measured USA Swimming’s abuse-prevention program against the best practices of other youth-serving and youth sports organizations, assessing its effectiveness and offering recommendations for improvement throughout the program.
 
USA Swimming gave Vieth and his team unencumbered access to the program in an effort to get the most feedback about not only its process, but also areas where the organization could improve its program.
 
“This review demonstrates USA Swimming’s ongoing commitment to raise awareness and reduce the risk of abuse in sport. Our Safe Sport program continues to evolve and an independent review of our program allows us to learn from the past, see what we’re doing well and make improvements for the future,” said Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming. “We accept the feedback in this report head on and we are confident that it will only help our program become even stronger.”
 
The review examined all areas of the USA Swimming Safe Sport program and was both critical and complimentary of the organization. Vieth’s report points out areas in which USA Swimming exceeds industry standards, including general policies, education training and it’s investigative process. However, it also covers areas in which USA Swimming could be doing more to prevent abuse from happening – both within the sport of swimming and at home. In all, a total of 39 recommendations are included in the report that is available online. The recommendations are also available in a three-page summary online.

“Our goal is to eliminate abuse within USA Swimming, and we recognize that even one case of abuse is too many,” said Susan Woessner, director of Safe Sport. “This is an ongoing team effort, from athletes, to parents, to coaches to USA Swimming leadership. This report will help us continue to strive for the goal.”
 
As executive director of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center (NCPTC), Vieth works with his staff to end child abuse, neglect and other forms of child maltreatment in three generations through education, training, awareness, prevention, advocacy, and the pursuit of justice. Gundersen NCPTC staff provides intensive instruction for students and current professionals in the field on how to better recognize, react, and respond to children who are being abused. The non-profit center trains approximately 15,000 child protection professionals each year. The Gundersen NCPTC is a program of Gundersen Health System, based in La Crosse, Wis.
 
Vieth and the Gundersen NCPTC have conducted independent reviews before and in May of 2013 released the findings of “Silent Tears”, a report which was a year-long review of child sex abuse in South Carolina. (Silent Tears Full Report)
 
The task force that will review the findings and make recommendations for implementation will be chaired by Jay Thomas and will include Dave Anderson, Rachel Stratton-Mills, Cecil Gordon, Megan Ryther, and John Morse. Sandy K. Wurtele, a psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, will also be a part of the task force. Wurtele is considered an international expert on child sexual abuse. Mike Unger and Susan Woessner will serve as staff liaisons.
 
Get more information about Safe Sport on USA Swimming’s website, including FAQs, a list of banned coaches, training and education links, and information about reporting misconduct or abuse.