The Boy Scouts are a positive force in the lives of Atlanta youth, and in our community. Our programs create a safe environment for more than 32,000 Atlanta children in the Scouting program to develop high moral character and a sense of adventure.
But as a father, I know that even one instance where a child is abused is unacceptable.
Recently, 12,000 Ineligible Volunteer files were released by an Oregon attorney. These files are an essential piece of the Boy Scout’s multi-tiered approach to youth protection. And our efforts have kept dangerous people out of Scouting since then.
Keeping our children safe is the number one priority of the Atlanta Area Council, Boy Scouts of America (BSA). As a parent, I know what it means to entrust your child into the care of others. That trust is something that I share with our 11,000 volunteer Scout leaders.
It’s 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 preventative measures are robust and designed with multiple safeguards including volunteer screening and training for adults and Scouts. Our protocol also includes mandatory reporting to law enforcement of any suspected abuse.
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.
A recent independent study from 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.”
Our efforts are ongoing. In 2007, we partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to write a guide for all youth-serving organizations to help prevent child abuse.
There are no secrets when it comes to safe Scouting. Parents are encouraged to join and attend each and every one of our programs. And every Scout Handbook, from first grade through high school, trains parents to talk to their children about how to recognize, resist, and report abuse.
Anyone that is even suspected of inappropriate behavior is immediately removed from Scouting and reported to law enforcement.
There have been instances in the past where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, the response to those incidents was insufficient, inappropriate, and not as complete as we take today. For this we are profoundly sorry.
I am personally and professionally committed, along with every other adult on the Scouting team, to make certain we implement and enforce the absolute best practices for protecting our Scouts today.
Tracy Techau is the Scout Executive/CEO of the Atlanta Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.