Organized Sports & Failure to Report: Is Your Child Safe?

Girl baseball team kneeling with their coach, touching hands

By Eliza Buergenthal

What are the Boundaries of the Athlete/Coach Relationship? 
In sports, so much of what it takes to be the best—on the field, court, dance floor or mat—is physical. To perfect a tackle or a squat or pirouette may require physical contact between a coach and an athlete. Sometimes, within that contact, a line is crossed. But how does a child know when something may be inappropriate? How are the boundaries within the athlete/coach relationship defined in a way that is healthy and safe?

Coaches are given an incredible amount of access to our children and need to be held to the same standards as other adults in whose care they are placed (health practitioners, police officers, educators and human service workers, all of whom are mandatory reporters).

As a coach becomes a mentor and advocate for a child on the field, bonds often form between coach and athlete. What can sometimes occur is a sense of duty and obligation on the part of the athlete to the coach. Athletes see how a coach has taken a special interest in them; in cases of manipulation and abuse, this power structure is leveraged to the benefit of the perpetrator. Athletes and parents may not want to report inappropriate behavior because they do not want to disappoint a trusted adult for whom they have feelings of gratitude and respect, or they don’t want to risk losing their coach’s favor or getting kicked off the team. Often athletes are afraid they may jeopardize a community’s pride, their own success, or the trust of their teammates. The threat of suspension of a player, termination of a program or forcing a forfeit in a big game holds power over victims and caregivers alike.

What can parents do? 
Get out in front of it. Acknowledge and talk about the risks with both your child athlete and their coach. Talk about healthy boundaries. Ask coaches, gyms, and recreational centers tough questions – have they had training on working with kids in a way that is safe? Do they know how to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse? What is their reporting policy?

Regardless of whether your child is playing in a premier league or a recreational team, be present. Show up to a random practice. Talk to other parents who have been through the program. When your child is contacted by program staff, make sure that you are included in conversations, or, if necessary, request that all communications come to you directly. Unfortunately, abuse can happen at every level, from Pee Wee Leagues through high school and beyond. Stay involved and stay alert. 

On a larger scale, talk to your Representatives and raise awareness about abuse in your communities. Advocate for comprehensive policies and procedures around recognizing, responding to, and reporting abuse from all of your child’s institutions and programs. Advocate for institutions and states to have strict penalties for those who fail to report abuse. Make sure there are protocols and trainings in place.

When coaches do not receive proper training, and when we do not advocate in our communities for better policies, it not only allows for failure to report abuse when incidents occur, but also for abuse to go on at the expense of future victims. Intervention, prevention and healing is delayed or unable to occur.

We’re here to help. At the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, we have a comprehensive program for outreach and training. BCAC gives coaches, youth serving professionals, and the institutions they work for the tools they need to work with children safely, and to recognize, respond to, and report abuse. When everyone is educated and working together, we can better protect our children, and make a profound difference in the lives of not only our child athletes, but all children. Let’s keep them safe.

Eliza Buergenthal is the Special Assistant to the Executive Leadership Team. She is a recent graduate of Syracuse University where she studied Public Policy, Public Relations, and Management. Eliza first joined the BCAC team as a legislative advocacy intern and plans to eventually attend law school with a focus on policy and lobbying.

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Day of the Girl: We See You

On this Day of the Girl, October 11, 2018, Baltimore Child Abuse Center gives a huge shout out and thank you to all the girls who report abuse and demonstrate unbelievable courage and tenacity. 

Kyle Stephens delivers a victim impact testimony during a sentencing hearing for Dr. Larry Nassar in Lansing
Kyle Stephens delivers a victim impact testimony during a sentencing hearing for Dr. Larry Nassar. (Photo credit: PBS NewsHour)

THANK YOU to Nasser victim Kyle Stephens, whose was accused of lying and was forced to apologize to Nasser when she first came forward, but who persisted and helped open the door for the 200-plus other victims.

THANK YOU to the middle-schooler in the Cherry Creek School District in Denver, Colorado whose school administrators made her recant, apologize and hug the teacher she accused, then suspended her for “false allegations.” But she persisted, hired an attorney, and helped get an $11.5 million settlement against the school on behalf of herself and the predator’s four other victims.

THANK YOU to the Baltimore City teenager whose story no one would believe, but who bravely persisted, enough to support an investigation that turned up undeniable proof that the abuse was happening, just as she’d described it.

To all the brave girls out there, today and every day, thank you for your strength and courage. Never doubt that you are impacting the lives of thousands by owning your stories and bravely finding your voice. You are the light of hope for other girls who are not yet ready to come forward. They see you. We see you. Never back down. We’ve got your back.

BCAC: We’re Hiring!

Baltimore Child Abuse Center is looking for qualified individuals to join our team as we continue to expand our organization and work towards the BCAC mission of providing victims of child sexual abuse, trauma, and other Adverse Childhood Experiences in Baltimore and their non-offending caretakers with comprehensive forensic interviews, medical treatment, and mental health treatment with a goal of preventing future trauma.

Candidates must meet education and experience requirements specific for each job. Under qualified candidates will not be contacted, and each position is contingent on grant funding.

Evening Family Intake Coordinator

The Evening Family Intake Coordinator has an important role at Baltimore Child Abuse Center, Inc. (BCAC) in providing a welcoming, friendly atmosphere to children and families who come to the Center. This person must be engaging, have excellent communication skills and be able to manage an advanced phone system. The person in this position must be aware of their surroundings and be able to properly direct and navigate people to the appropriate departments within BCAC. The Coordinator should consult with BCAC Lead Forensic Interviewer about any concerning observations and be able to document them as necessary. The person in this position may also assist in clerical and administrative duties as needed.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Child Development Specialist

The Child Development Specialist has an important role at Baltimore Child Abuse Center, Inc. (BCAC) in providing management and structure for a program designed for the support and nurturance of youth and families visiting the Center. This person will operate within the Family Advocacy Program to ensure that all youth and families who are receiving services at BCAC have a coordinated, trauma-informed response. The Child Development Specialist must be knowledgeable of child developmental norms and appropriate positive behavioral management techniques. This person must be organized, engaging, energetic, patient, and have excellent listening skills. This position requires the ability to handle multiple tasks, manage multiple youth at one time and be able to interact with all youth in a developmentally appropriate manner. The Child Development Specialist will report to the Family Advocate Program Supervisor.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Training Associate

Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) is committed to providing education and training to both our professional partners as well as members of our community. In supporting the mission of BCAC, the Training Associate performs a critical role in administering, advertising, and building connections for the myriad of BCAC’s training offerings. The Training Associate is responsible for developing outreach programs for clients and community members, developing and delivering trainings on a myriad of topics, advertising and marketing training to professional partners and community members, and aiding the Training Specialist in tracking training data. This person will also be responsible for developing and maintaining relationships within Baltimore City and the surrounding communities. The ideal candidate will be a self-starter, organized, personable, and be excited about engaging the community in child abuse efforts.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Mental Health Therapist

This position will focus primarily on children up to age 18 who have been determined to be chronic runaways. This therapeutic position will provide therapy to children and families with the goal of stabilizing the child and family, activating protective measures and implementing therapeutic interventions as appropriate.  

Click here for more information and to apply.

Manager of Inter-agency Partnerships

Children’s Advocacy Centers were birthed out of the spirit of collaboration in order to reduce trauma, and improve effectiveness and efficiency for child victims of abuse and for the benefit of its multi-faceted team. The Manager of Inter-agency  Partnerships  provides leadership  in facilitating and improving  collaboration and resiliency  within all Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) teams and among all BCAC involved partnerships  (including  partner programs  within LifeBridge Health) and all Multidisciplinary  Teams (MDT) to better serve child victims of abuse and trauma.  The Manager of Inter-agency Partnerships will facilitate strong communication, team best practices, and resiliency to optimize team effectiveness.  Doing so will provide the best possible coordinated, trauma-informed response to child victims of crime and their families.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Blueprint Project Coordinator

Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) is committed to providing education and training to our professional partners as well as members of our community. Thanks in part to a grant by The Leonard & Helen R. Stulman Foundation, and in supporting the mission of BCAC, the Blueprint Project Coordinator performs a critical role in aiding in the process of changing the culture around child protection and child abuse prevention in Jewish Baltimore. The Coordinator is responsible for helping develop and implement the Blueprint project in the grant project area of Greater Baltimore, developing outreach programs for youth serving organizations and community members, developing and delivering trainings, advertising and marketing training to professional partners and community members, and aiding the Director of Prevention and Education in this three year project. This person will also be responsible for developing and maintaining relationships within the Baltimore Jewish Community. The ideal candidate will be a self-starter, organized, personable, and be excited about engaging the community in child abuse prevention efforts.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Part-Time Nurse Practitioner

The part-time nurse practitioner serves as a collaborative member of the health care team at BCAC and is responsible for performing initial screening exams for children entering foster care and kinship care. 

Click here for more information and to apply.

All candidates must submit a resume and cover letter with each application. Please indicate if you have applied for more than one position in your cover letter. We look forward to speaking with you!