Review Details Sex Abuse Claims Against Boys and Girls Clubs - NBC Chicago
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Review Details Sex Abuse Claims Against Boys and Girls Clubs

Boys & Girls Clubs of America has a congressional charter to work with at-risk youth in communities across the country

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    In this May 20, 2013, file photo, Paul A. Collins is seen at his arraignment for child sex abuse at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club in the late 1970s and early 1980s at Cambridge District Court in Medford, Massachusetts.

    At least 250 people have said they were sexually abused as children by employees, volunteers and others at Boys and Girls Clubs of America affiliates, according to an investigation by Hearst Connecticut Media.

    The review of criminal convictions and civil lawsuits dating to the 1970s turned up 95 abuse cases in 30 states involving people associated with the nonprofit youth development organization, which serves more than 4.5 million young people a year at its 4,600 local centers. Some of the cases involve more than one accuser.

    The cases include allegations that leadership at clubs knew about abuse and did not report it to law enforcement, among other examples of local clubs failing to adhere to national protocols, and that, in some instances, background checks apparently failed to keep adults with violent convictions from working with children.

    John Miller, senior vice president of field services for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, declined to share the number of sexual abuse allegations local clubs have reported to the leadership since 2014, when affiliates became required to share such information with the national organization. He said the number of sexual abuse cases that result in arrests has been probably in the single digits each year since 2014.

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    "Any single incident is too many. Our goal is to get to zero," Miller told Hearst Connecticut.

    Miller said the entire organization is dedicated to keeping children safe, and there is no one office that keeps a list of offenders.

    Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which has a $100 million annual budget, has a congressional charter to work with at-risk youth in communities across the country.

    Attorneys representing victims say that since the organization serves children, it should release more information to the public about offenders.

    "The national organization has a moral obligation to release the names of perpetrators within its ranks and crimes found, so victims can try to heal," said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented some of the accusers. "It speaks volumes that they don't."

    In a case in Connecticut, three adults employed by the Greenwich Boys' Club knew multiple boys were molested and raped by a counselor in the 1970s and 1980s, and none reported the abuse to police, according to a civil lawsuit. Attorneys representing the club have denied wrongdoing by the organization.

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    Since 2005, Boys & Girls Clubs of America has required all who have contact with children to undergo criminal background checks annually, Miller said. But there have been instances in recent years when local clubs' procedures apparently failed to screen out people with criminal records.

    In 2015, Christopher Sims was hired at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wayne County in Goldsboro, North Carolina, despite previous convictions for communicating threats, resisting a police officer and disorderly conduct. Sims was convicted of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old at the club in 2016.