A New Job Description for Coaches

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The child sex abuse scandal at Penn State has prompted legislators around the country to reconsider the laws governing child abuse and to increase the penalties on those who fail to report child abuse, particularly on educators, school administrators, teachers, coaches, and other persons who work with children. Is increasing the penalties for not reporting child abuse really going to fix the problem?

Perhaps we are missing the larger issue here of whose job is it to report child abuse? Certainly, anyone who educates and coaches children would know that reporting child abuse is part of their job description. Maybe “reporting child abuse” isn’t actually listed in the job description of these professions. If not, it should be. In fact, every interview for any of these professions should include the following question: “What is an example of child sex abuse that should be reported?” It’s a trick question. Every incidence of child sex abuse should be reported.

This is why I like working with pediatricians and why I like police officers. They know it’s their job to report child abuse of any shape or form. Other than these folks, “Whose job is it to report child abuse?”

Coaches play an important role in the young child’s life. I still remember the day my Police Boys Club track coach told me to run the 1500 meters, a race I had never run before. He said, ‘You can do it.” I ended up placing second. I remember the day my high school softball coach fell to her knees, with her arms up in the air, after I had made a pretty amazing catch in center field. I was often surprised by my coaches’ faith in me. Their support was unwavering. I am 40 years old now and I can still remember my experiences with these coaches vividly.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think penalizing those who don’t report child abuse is really going to make a difference. I think we need a greater commitment by all adults caring for children. What they do can have a profound effect, and this should be reinforced during the hiring process of not only coaches but anyone who works with children.

But back to the question “Whose job is it to report child abuse?” The answer is not just those adults who work directly with children. Although they do shoulder most of the burden, it is really EVERY ADULT’s job to report child abuse. What I would like is for every person reading this letter, regardless of profession, to raise their right hand and say, “As an adult of sound mind and body, it is my job to report child abuse. I will not let a child be abused in any way; I will report abuse, regardless of the circumstance, and I will do whatever I can to protect the child from further abuse. So help me God.” Thank you. You are now doing your job.

PS. The coach I most rely on today—my pediatrician. Consultant For Pediatricians publishes a Series called “Parent Coach,” edited by Linda S. Nield, MD, which helps pediatricians answer questions mothers (and other caregivers) commonly ask. The following is a list of questions and scenarios that may sound familiar and links to the Parent Coach’s advice on how to deal with them:

Strength Training in Children: Should They “Weight”?

Child Near Expulsion From Preschool: Is Medication the Answer?

Weaning the Breastfed 4-Year-Old

Breaking the Finger-Sucking Habit

Home Alone: At What Age Are Children Ready?

When Johnny Can’t Sleep

Adolescent Confidentiality: Where Are the Boundaries?