Guest Author - Erik Moeller
The Boy Scouts of America is dedicated to preventing child abuse within our organization. A few years ago we used the term “safe haven,” but we soon realized that no matter how hard we worked or how much structure we put into protecting our youth, we could not always guarantee the ideal safety.
To provide as much protection for our youth as possible, Scouting developed a circuitous course that must be followed in order to be a Scout leader. This course begins with the Adult Leader Application which asks for 3 references and acknowledges that a background check will be performed. It continues through normal daily practices of Safe Scouting procedures and annual certification in a Youth Protection Course. As the Guide to Safe Scouting states, “Being a leader in the BSA is a privilege, not a right.” For a more complete look at the Youth Protection guidelines in the Guide to Safe Scouting, go to the following link. http://www.scouting.org/pubs/gss/gss01.html
Each Council can establish how often adults must be certified and there is some flexibility in the number of adults that need to be “Youth Certified” on any outing. For some Councils certification was required annually; for others, it was every two or three years. Some Councils required two “Youth Certified” adults per outing; for others, all the adults needed to be certified. Nationally sponsored outings (Philmont, etc.) require annually certified adults and all the adults must be certified. If you make an “out of Council” trip, the national guidelines must be followed. The best and safest program is to have all adults certified annually.
Youth Protection Training gives you a lot of information: how to recognize child abuse, when and how to report abuse, how to council your youth, etc. The most important rule that you can take away from the training is “Two Deep Leadership.” This concept stresses that an adult should never be one-on-one with a youth. No individual training. No individual instruction. Never a one-on-one situation. As an adult, if you are accused of improper behavior, you are considered guilty until proven innocent. The safety of our youth is this important.
The first time I heard this I was more than a little miffed. I was dedicating my time, my training and my resources to help teach these kids, and I’m guilty until proven innocent. There had to be something wrong. And there was. My attitude. As an adult I should take charge of the situation to make sure I don’t get in trouble. Teach knots at the camp table, not in a tent. Teach two or three Scouts at a time. Control your environment. The Youth Protection program is as much for your protection as for our youth.