Open Forum: Best practices

Posted: November 15, 2012

The Boy Scouts are a positive force in the lives of youth and community. Our programs create a safe environment for more than 4,500 children in our local Scouting program to develop high moral character and a sense of adventure.

As a father, I know and understand the impact of even just one instance where a child is abused, and it is, without doubt, unacceptable.

Ineligible volunteer files were recently released by an Oregon attorney. These files, owned and managed by the National Office, are an essential piece of the Boy Scouts’ multi-tiered approach to youth protection and have kept dangerous people out of Scouting since its start. Keeping our children safe is the No. 1 priority of the Shenandoah Area Council. I am a parent, and I know what it means to entrust your child into the care of others. That trust is something I share with our 2,000-plus local Scout Leaders. It is why we work so hard to keep our youth protection policies in line with society’s understanding of abuse and the best practices for prevention.

Today, our youth protection approach is cited as the best in the nation by child protection experts, including Victor Vieth, head of the National Child Protection Training Center. Our preventive measures are robust and designed with multiple safeguards, including volunteer screening and training for adults, parents, and Scouts. From criminal background checks to policies that ensure that no youth is ever alone with an adult leader, the BSA has consistently led the way in safeguarding children. Our protocol also includes mandatory reporting of any suspected abuse.

A recent independent study by University of Virginia psychologist Janet Warren concluded that “children in Scouting were safer and less likely to experience inappropriate sexual behavior in Scouting than in their own families, schools, and during other community activities supervised by adults.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used Boy Scout guidelines to write a guide for all youth-serving organizations as a model to help prevent child abuse.

There are no secrets when it comes to safe Scouting. Parents are encouraged to attend each and every program. The Scout Handbook trains parents to talk to their children about how to recognize, resist, and report abuse.

I am personally and professionally committed, along with every other adult member of our Scouting community, to make certain we implement and enforce the absolute best practices for protecting our Scouts today — and continue to be a model for all youth-serving organizations in the community.

Stuart Williams is Scout Executive of the Shenandoah Area Council.