Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Needed: More Grown Ups

If you keep up with news—or even if you just casually catch it in between your sports or entertainment choices—you can’t have missed the biggest news story in the US these days: the terrible occurrences and apparent cover-up over the past 15 years at Penn State. This story hits home for anyone who works with or cares about children, which is just about everyone everywhere.

One of the most troubling and baffling aspects of the story is the way so many people apparently knew what was going on and yet it took so long for anything to come to light. The way to avoid reputation destruction for institutions is not to hide the negative, but to take steps to make sure the negative is not possible through accountability.

Anyone who works with minors knows that the number one rule to follow is: avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing. In today’s world a mere accusation is enough to ruin a person’s or organization’s reputation. The sad thing is that there is no reason to get to the point where one’s reputation is so precariously balanced. In the years that I worked with teens, I made it a habit to never be alone with a minor. There is no good reason for it.

The other trap that I never let myself fall into was to think that I was one of their “buddies.” That is something that has become a challenge in today’s society. Even parents think that their main role is to be their child’s best friend and to treat them as equals in spite of their lack of experience and maturity. That is the last thing a child needs from the parental figures in their life. Children need adults in their life who will be grown ups, providing limitations, a positive example and helping them learn to be better people.

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