Youth Protection ... for kids
By the time this post goes live most of the volunteer leaders of the Boy Scouts of America will have taken or will be scrambling to take the new Youth Protection before the October 1st deadline. Which is a really good thing, Youth Protection had not updated in many years and for many long time scouters (like myself) it became something you could just flip through, take a quiz and be covered for two years.
I’ll be the first to admit that the execution of the new training is not great. It doesn’t depict enough youth and adults in scouting environments. But that is beyond the point, there is a lot of good information and I learned a few things.
So we are flush with leaders, merit badge counselors and parents (who occasionally help out) who are filled with all these great concepts ready to keep the scouts safe and know of the warning signs to look out for. But no one has explained it to the kids.
They don’t know why we do the things we do and don’t do. And yes there is the pamphlet in the beginning of handbooks, but for a Scouts BSA member you see that once when your eleven and never again? That’s if you actually ready it also instead of your parent skimming through it and signing it.
A few years ago my troop was on a camping trip that included a trip to a water park. At the end of our time there we were loading up the cars to head back to camp. Our scoutmaster was going to take a side trip to WalMart to pick up a few extra things for a desert he was planning for later in the evening. He took some orders from the rest of us, I needed Mountain Dew and batteries. Someone mentioned that we needed paper towels and perhaps some aloe to help sooth sunburns.
All of a sudden a scout asks if he could go with him. The young boy was not particularly liked among his peers. He has had a rough upbringing. He was looking for solid male adult role models that he didn’t have at home. The scoutmaster told him he couldn’t come with him. I could see the young boys face just sink, someone else who he couldn’t count on. In that gravelly parking lot we couldn’t explain why. At least not in a way that he could understand.
If we started spouting off terms like no one-on-one contact or two deep leadership or grooming. It would be like talking to the kid in Swedish. Those aren’t concepts that kids really understand. Nor are they introduced to children until something bad has already happened.
Guess what had that kid gotten into that car, with that scoutmaster (who himself was looking for 30 minutes of quiet time away from the troop, which was his refuge after a two year stretch of personal tragedies you wouldn't wish on anyone) nothing would have happened. There would have been no accusations (true or false). But it’s not worth the risk for the scout or the scouter.
Had the young boy understood what we as adults need to do, and how we need to do it. It wouldn’t have seemed like such a rejection. The boy soon left the troop, we thought he was done with scouting. But he ended up latching on to another troop in the neighborhood and by all accounts is thriving there with a new group of scouts.
A few years earlier we had another incident where there was a scout who had an even rougher and more disturbing upbringing than the previous boy. He clung to our then Scoutmaster like glue. He would often say things like he wished he lived with the scoutmaster and that no one understands him like the scoutmaster. He always wanted to spend one on one time with the scoutmaster, who knew well enough to not let that ever happen. The scout was being bullied and he didn’t have the social skills to solve the issue himself. So the troop leadership stepped in and put an end to it. The hero worship got worse.
This was a recipe for disaster. There was very little parental influence in this kids life, so going to them to discuss the situation would have blown up in everyone’s faces, probably in the form of physical discipline for the kid and false accusations thrown at the troop leadership. This kid needed scouting. Our adult leadership group along with our senior youth leaders had to insulate the scoutmaster from this kid. But doing it in a way that didn’t make scouting seem like yet another institution that failed him.
That scoutmaster had stepped down, his wife was having their second child and he couldn’t commit the time needed. The scout soon left the troop. There was no roadmap for him to understand what was inappropriate in his words and actions. That is a way that the BSA has failed some of our youth.
As adults our troop spends an awful lot of time making sure we follow every rule down to the letter. We often drop scouts off at home after outings, and we make complex plans to make sure there is never just one kid and one adult in a car. It’s work. But a justified cost of running a quality and safe program for our youth, who often need a place where they feel wanted.
The BSA does a great job with the cyber chip. Requiring each level of Cub Scout to recharge it every year and having scouts do it and recharge it at different advancement stages. Why can’t we have some youth protection for youth that needs to be taken before you advance.