Penn State to Administer $60 Million Child Welfare Fund

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Pennsylvania State University says it will administer the $60 million fund for prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse mandated by an NCAA penalty. But the university has yet to decide who will be eligible for grants and when they will start happening. 

“We’ve been asked to administer the fund,” confirmed David La Torre, a spokesman for Penn State. 

NCAA logo“Clearly the NCAA will have expectations and will monitor this,” he added. “We only learned about the penalties [last week] so we don’t have a lot of information about that right now.” 

The creation of the fund is one of several sanctions levied against the university for its personnel covering up serial child sex abuse by former football Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky, who worked in the program from 1969 to 1999. The football team is also barred from postseason play for four years and will vacate all wins from 1998 to 2011. The NCAA will cut some football scholarship money, and it retains the right to further sanctions of individuals if more information comes out of criminal proceedings. 

The NCAA specifies the money go to charities that work on preventing child sex abuse or assisting victims. 

The total $60 million is worth an average year’s gross football program revenue for Penn State, according to the NCAA. 

In a written public statement, Penn State president Rodney Erickson said the money “can never reduce the pain suffered by victims, but will help provide them hope and healing.” 

The first $12 million contribution to the fund is due at the end of this year, said NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn. But it’s not clear yet when the first disbursements will happen. 

Money will go straight from Penn State to charities, said Osburn. “We’re working through with them (Penn State) the stipulations and the guidelines for that,” she said. 

“We’re working very closely with the school as they go through the process of establishing this endowment,” Osburn continued. “I know the university is hearing from a lot of charities and we are hearing from a lot of charities.” 

Indeed, when Youth Today called the university communications office about the case, the operator asked if the call was a request to interview someone or a request to join a list of charities that want to apply for funds. 

Melissa Sickmund runs one of those nonprofits that is curious about the spend. She is interim director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice in Pittsburg. “I think there’s a lot of education that could take place for judges who aren’t normal family court judges, prosecutors, athletic directors” and other people, Sickmund said. 

“A lot of people are mandatory reporters and they didn’t report,” she added. 

Mandatory reporters are people who are legally obligated to call authorities if they see or suspect child abuse. Laws vary by state, but at a minimum that usually includes law enforcement, doctors, childcare providers, social workers and school teachers and staff.  Some states require nearly everyone to report child abuse, with only limited exceptions for clergy-penitent and attorney-client relationships.

The Big Ten, Penn State’s conference within the NCAA, has announced it will donate $13 million to child-protection charities in its communities. That sum is equivalent to Penn State’s would-be conference bowl revenues over the four years they are to be banned. 

Photo from Hook 'em Report.