Dear Board Members;
You may hear a story today about press conferences in select cities attempting to draw attention to BSA’s ineligible volunteer files and ongoing abuse litigation. If you are asked about this issue please share the following statement from National:
We care deeply about all victims of child sex abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice. Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. Throughout our history, we have enacted strong youth protection policies to prevent future abuse, including mandatory youth protection trainings and a formal leader-selection process that includes criminal background checks. We have also maintained a Volunteer Screening Database to prevent individuals accused of abuse or inappropriate conduct from joining or re-entering our programs, a practice recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. At no time have we ever knowingly allowed a sexual predator to work with youth, and we mandate that all leaders, volunteers and staff members nationwide immediately report any abuse allegation to law enforcement.
It may also be helpful to know that we have a toll-free helpline (1-844-726-8871) and email contact address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for these sensitive matters. As mentioned earlier, BSA offers unlimited counseling with a provider of their choice to any Scout, former Scout, or the family member of any Scout who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting.
BSA has adopted some of the strongest barriers to abuse found in any youth-serving organization and our Council takes the responsibility to uphold those barriers seriously. Today, BSA is considered by many of the top experts in youth protection policies to be leaders in this effort. The safety and protection of children in our Scouting programs is our top priority. We have screening procedures for registered leaders and act swiftly to report abuse allegations to law enforcement.
- Decades ago, we adopted some of the strongest barriers to abuse found in any youth-serving organization, and we take the responsibility to uphold those barriers seriously. Today, we are considered by many of the top experts in youth protection to be leaders in this effort.
- Youth protection training is mandatory for all registered leaders, and we also provide educational materials to parent and Scouts.
- The BSA has a formal leader-selection process that includes criminal background checks and other screenings.
- We have a strict “two-deep” leadership policy, which requires that a youth is never alone with an adult leader during Scouting activities. Additionally, no youth is permitted to sleep in the tent of an adult other than his or her own parent/guardian. We also prohibit one-on-one contact between adults and youth members, including texting and communications on social media.
- We actively share and encourage the use of our 24/7 Scouts First Helpline to report any suspected abuse or inappropriate behavior. Further, we mandate that all allegations or suspicion of abuse are reported to authorities. In addition to removing the individual from Scouting, this means that if we receive a report regarding any suspicious activity or allegations of abuse, our next call is to law enforcement, whose investigation we support unequivocally.
- The BSA promotes a culture of safe Scouting and has a full-time Youth Protection Director, who is highly respected by child advocacy and youth protection experts.
- Additionally, our Volunteer Screening Database is at the forefront of youth protection procedures. While it has often been misunderstood and criticized, time and time again it has successfully prevented potential predators from re-joining our organization and gaining access to youth. That is precisely why we have been maintaining these records since the 1920s.
BSA also consistently advocates to Congress for enhanced youth protection policies, initiatives and efforts. Specifically, BSA has recommended to Congress the following programs and ideas that independent experts agree will keep children safe, including:
- Establishing and funding a system where volunteers can register/be cleared through a common screening process for all states and organizations, with an affordable process for conducting background checks and periodically renewing the clearance to reduce the risk that potential abusers can gain access to children by moving across state lines or to other youth serving organizations;
- Enabling youth-serving organizations to share information about individuals who have been removed from their programs for alleged inappropriate conduct – even if the individuals have not been arrested or convicted – to keep potential abusers out of these organizations;
- Strengthening mandatory reporting laws; and,
- Requiring that sex abuse offenders serve full sentences.
BSA also consults experts from law enforcement, child safety, psychology, and other relevant fields to ensure our policies are in line with, and in many cases, ahead of society’s knowledge of abuse and best practices for prevention. Additionally, the BSA hosts youth protection symposiums that bring together some of the brightest minds in the field to discuss best practices and prevention techniques to ensure our kids are kept safe.
In closing, if you have not updated your Youth Protection Training recently, I encourage you to do so at my.scouting.org. The training is free and open to all – including non-members – so please share it with all your Scouting friends and anyone else you know who works with children.
Craig Poland | Scout Executive & CEO