More than 50 youth sports organizations convened in a two-day summit in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday to discuss new industry-wide standards for preventing child sexual abuse within its ranks.
But here in Central Pennsylvania, change is already underway.
“We have always taken proactive measures to ensure the safety of the youth participating in our programs including backgrounds checks and abuse prevention trainings for staff and volunteers,” said Matt Tuckey, associate executive director of the Carlisle Family YMCA. “Recently, we’ve embarked on an additional initiative to enhance our efforts to prevent child sexual abuse both at our Y and in our community.”
Tuckey said Carlisle Family YMCA youth director Justin Rose became a certified facilitator for the Darkness to Light organization in January.
Darkness to Light’s mission empowers adults to prevent child sexual abuse through programs that raise the awareness of the prevalence and consequences of the crime. The organization’s “Stewards of Children” initiative teaches people “steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.”
“By having a facilitator right here at the Y, we can train our staff and protect our children, while also serving as a community provider to eliminate child sexual abuse in our community,” Tuckey said.
The Special Olympics of Pennsylvania also reviewed its existing guidelines in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
“Before an individual, responsible for direct supervision of our athletes, begins his or her Special Olympics Pennsylvania volunteer experience, they undergo a background check and are required to take Protective Behaviors training offered by our international headquarters,” said Nicole Jones, spokeswoman for the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania. “The goal of Protective Behaviors training is to provide education intended to identify and prevent physical, emotional and sexual abuse.”
She said the Protective Behaviors program piqued the interest of summit organizers — the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation — and led to the Special Olympic’s participation in the event.
The summit is a joint effort between the organizations to address child abuse in sports following the Jerry Sandusky case. John Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing Exploited Children, said Monday “Although this (the Sandusky case) was a wake-up call, it’s an issue we are very familiar with.”
Sandusky, a former Penn State coach, was convicted last October of molesting 10 boys over several years. He met some of his victims at Second Mile, a nonprofit charity serving Pennsylvania underprivileged and at-risk youth.
Maddie Young, executive director for Big Brother, Big Sisters in Harrisburg, said the organization’s gold standard for evidence-based mentoring programs includes the constant review of screening and background check systems to include emerging new technologies and practices.
“We applaud all child-serving agencies who take the initiative to research, engage and advocate for child safety,” Young said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.