Know the Facts: BSA Youth Protection
Youth protection is of paramount importance to the Boy Scouts of America. Recognizing that this commitment requires sustained vigilance, the BSA has continued to develop and enhance its efforts to protect youth, regularly consulting with experts from law enforcement, child safety, psychology, and other disciplines to ensure its efforts consistently evolve along with the ever-changing awareness of the dangers and challenges facing youth. The BSA takes a multi-layered approach to youth protection: (1) local selection of adult volunteers with the support of the national organization, (2) education and training, and (3) clear policies such as no "one on one" activities, and immediate reporting of any concerns.
Local Selection of Adult Volunteers With the Support of the National Organization
Chartered organizations provide local insight and ongoing supervision.
The most important responsibility of a chartered organization is the selection of quality leadership for the Scout unit. The involvement of local chartered organizations (churches, schools, or civic groups) helps ensure that selected volunteers are known and trusted in the community.
Adults selected by chartered organizations apply for leadership roles.
From its earliest days, the BSA has had a mandatory application and registration process to screen adult volunteers. The application requires adults who have been selected as potential leaders of youth by a chartered organization to provide references, past addresses, and other community affiliations, and to disclose any criminal conviction or allegations of child abuse. This information helps the chartered organization verify the applicant¹s suitability for Scout leadership.
The BSA requires criminal background checks on all adult volunteers.
The BSA grants membership to an adult volunteer only after a national criminal background check is performed. The background checks are administered by LexisNexis, a nationally respected third party that also provides this service to local, state, and federal governments; educational institutions; and other nonprofits.
The BSA's Ineligible Volunteer Files provide an added layer of protection.
Scouting takes any allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously, whether or not the individual ever served as a Scout leader, and whether or not that person behaved inappropriately with a Scout or any other child. Scouting policy requires the prompt reporting of inappropriate conduct. When such issues are reported, the individual is added to the Ineligible Volunteer Files maintained by the National Council, whether or not the allegations are proven. The Ineligible Volunteer Files have successfully kept dangerous and potentially dangerous individuals out by enabling Scouting to identify those individuals who have been barred from the organization, even based on suspicion alone.
Education and Training
Every parent completing a youth membership form acknowledges awareness of the BSA's youth protection and affirms their intention to review the booklet, "How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse: A Parent's Guide," which is included in every Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbook.
Every application for youth membership advises parents about the basic principles of youth protection, including the "two deep" leadership requirement for every Scouting activity.
Parents and youth are required to review Youth Protection materials as an advancement requirement.
Every Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbook includes a separate pamphlet that helps parents speak to their children about youth protection issues. Parents and youth are required to review these materials together before the child can advance in Scouting.
All adult volunteers are required to complete Youth Protection training every two years.
All adult volunteers, regardless of their position, must have completed Youth Protection training. This training must be taken every two years in order to renew membership. The training is available online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Scouting empowers youth Personal Safety Awareness skills, including the "three R's."
The "three R's" of Youth Protection convey an important message in a clear manner easily understood by youth members:
- Recognize situations that place them at risk of being molested, how child molesters operate, and that anyone could be a molester.
- Resist unwanted and inappropriate attention. Resistance will stop most attempts at molestation.
- Report attempted or actual molestation to a parent or other trusted adult. This prevents further abuse and helps protect other children. Help them understand that they will not be blamed for what occurred.
Youth protection information is communicated through videos and other written materials.
The BSA makes Youth Protection videos and other resources available to units to present on an annual basis to their members. Scouts must take Youth Protection training periodically as a requirement for rank advancement. Educational materials are routinely updated and most are available in both English and Spanish.
All persons involved in Scouting shall report to local authorities any good faith suspicion or belief that any child is or has been physically or sexually abused, physically or emotionally neglected, exposed to any form of violence or threat, exposed to any form of sexual exploitation including the possession, manufacture, or distribution of child pornography, online solicitation, enticement, or showing of obscene material. No person may abdicate this reporting responsibility to any other person. The Scout Executive must be notified of this report, or of any violation of BSA’s Youth Protection policies, so he or she may take appropriate action for the safety of our Scouts, make appropriate notifications, and follow-up with investigating agencies.
The BSA has a Youth Protection director dedicated to the continued enhancement of Scouting's Youth Protection training programs and policies.
Effective July 24, 2010, Mike Johnson joined the BSA as its Youth Protection director. Johnson is a seasoned police detective and an internationally recognized expert on child abuse investigation and prevention who has conducted hundreds of training sessions for law enforcement and child services professionals around the world. Johnson, along with other professionals, employees, and Scouting volunteers, is constantly reviewing our Youth Protection policies, procedures, and training materials while also looking for opportunities to work with other organizations and experts to further advance our youth protection efforts.
At least two adults supervise all Scouting activities.
One-on-one contact between adults and youth members is not permitted. In compliance with the BSA's "two deep" leadership policy, two registered adult leaders or one registered leader and a parent of a participant, or other adult, one of whom must be 21 years of age or older, are required on all trips and outings. In situations requiring a personal conference, such as a Scoutmaster's conference, the meeting is to be conducted in view of other adults and youth. The chartered organization is responsible for ensuring that sufficient leadership is provided for all Scouting activities.
Privacy of youth and adult members is safeguarded by BSA policy.
Adult leaders must respect the privacy of members and protect their own privacy‹especially in situations such as changing clothes and taking showers at camp. The BSA strongly encourages councils to have separate shower and latrine facilities for females as well as separate facilities for youth. When separate facilities are not available, separate times for male and female and/or youth and adult showering should be scheduled and posted. No youth is permitted to sleep in the tent of an adult other than his or her own parent or guardian.
Scouts are instructed to use cameras, cell phones, and other digital devices responsibly.
While most members use cameras, cell phones, and other imaging devices responsibly, it has become very easy to invade other individuals' privacy. Scouting policy prohibits the use of any device capable of recording or transmitting visual images in shower houses, restrooms, or other areas where privacy is expected by participants. Additionally, Scouts are not to send sexually explicit photographs or videos electronically.
All aspects of the Scouting program are open to observation by parents and leaders.
The BSA does not allow any secret organizations as part of its program nor does it condone physical hazing or initiations as part of any Scouting activity. Parents are encouraged to attend all Scouting activities.
All of the BSA¹s Youth Protection policies are clearly defined and available for all to review.
BSA policies are included in training materials and posted online at www.Scouting.org , which clearly sets forth member and unit responsibilities.
Questions and Answers About the BSA’s Youth Protection
1) What policies are in place to foster Scouts’ safety and well-being?
Scouting takes a multi-layered approach to youth protection. Here are the key elements:
Local Selection of Adult Volunteers With the Support of the National Organization:
Local chartered organizations select and screen leaders who are known and trusted by the local community. These potential leaders then submit their application to the BSA, which submits the names to a third-party vendor for criminal background checks. Following that process, the BSA determines whether the it has any information that would indicate that she or he does not meet our membership standards or has engaged in conduct that is inconsistent with the safety of youth.
Education and Training:
Our education and training are specifically designed to teach Scouts, parents, and adult volunteers to recognize, resist, and report abuse—in and out of Scouting. The BSA provides parents with youth protection information on the youth application and in the parent guide found in Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbooks. Adult volunteer leaders must take Youth Protection training as a requirement for joining and must renew this training every two years. Youth also must review Youth Protection materials periodically as a requirement for rank advancement.
We have established clear policies to help protect youth participating in our programs, including our policy that prohibits youth from being alone with an adult volunteer. These policies are clearly stated in training materials and on www.Scouting.org.
2) How are adult leaders selected?
All potential volunteer Scout leaders must apply through the unit’s chartered organization. The involvement of these organizations (such as churches, schools, and civic groups) helps ensure that volunteers are known and trusted in the community. After local reference checks, approval by the chartered organization, and a national criminal background check, the applicant’s information is submitted to the BSA and is checked against the organization’s Ineligible Volunteer Files.
3) Have all registered adult Scout volunteers undergone criminal background checks?
Yes. All registered volunteers have undergone a criminal background check.
4) Is Youth Protection training a requirement for all adult volunteers?
Yes, all adult volunteers are required to complete mandatory Youth Protection training. To view the training, please click here.
5) How is the BSA communicating with its members about sexual abuse and the things they can do to protect themselves?
Every Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbook includes a separate pamphlet that helps parents speak to their children about youth protection issues. Parents and youth review these materials periodically as the Scout advances in the program. These materials educate and empower youth members to be an active part of their safety by learning such things as the “three R’s” of Youth Protection:
Recognize situations that place them at risk of being molested, how child molesters operate, and that anyone could be a molester.
Resist unwanted and inappropriate attention. Resistance will stop most attempts at molestation.
Report attempted or actual molestation to a parent or other trusted adult. This prevents further abuse and helps protect other children.
The BSA makes available Youth Protection videos and other resources to units to present on an annual basis to their members. Scouts must take Youth Protection training as a requirement for rank advancement.
To view these resources, please click here.
6) What is the BSA’s message to parents about youth protection issues?
Youth protection is of paramount importance to the BSA, and we are committed to making Scouting as safe as possible for all our members. Parents are our most important allies in protecting our youth. All aspects of Scouting are open to observation by parents, and we encourage them to maintain an open dialog with their children and that's why every Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbook includes a separate pamphlet that helps parents speak to their children about youth protection issues.
7) What should parents do if they suspect inappropriate behavior of any kind with a child?
All persons involved in Scouting shall report to local authorities any good faith suspicion or belief that any child is or has been physically or sexually abused, physically or emotionally neglected, exposed to any form of violence or threat, exposed to any form of sexual exploitation including the possession, manufacture, or distribution of child pornography, online solicitation, enticement, or showing of obscene material. No person may abdicate this reporting responsibility to any other person. The Scout Executive should be notified of this report, or of any violation of BSA’s Youth Protection policies, so he or she may take appropriate action for the safety of our Scouts, make appropriate notifications, and follow-up with investigating agencies.
8) What specific steps has the BSA taken in the past decade to address volunteer misconduct within its organization and protect its members?
Recognizing that youth protection requires sustained vigilance, the BSA has continued to develop and enhance our Youth Protection policies to make Scouting as safe as possible for our members. Key enhancements of the past decade include the following:
- 2003: Initiated third-party, computerized criminal background checks on all new adult volunteers
- 2003: Introduced online Youth Protection training—“Youth Protection Guidelines: Training for Adult Leaders and Parents”—to supplement in-person training.
- 2005: Revised “How to Protect Your Children” insert in Boy Scout and Cub Scout handbooks to aid parents in discussing youth protection issues with their children.
- 2005: Launched new Adult Leader Application that encourages immediate online training for Youth Protection and other immediate needs.
- 2008: Required all current volunteers to go through a criminal background check.
- 2008: Implemented Youth Protection requirements for youth to advance in rank.
- 2010: Established mandatory Youth Protection training for all of the BSA’s volunteers.
- 2010: Hired a full-time Youth Protection director to continue to enhance the BSA’s Youth Protection program.
- 2010: Updated Youth Protection materials to include scenario-based training to raise awareness of potential abuse—even in the Scouting program.
- 2011: Established a dedicated website focused on communicating the BSA’s commitment to youth protection.
- 2011: Mandatory reporting of suspected abuse.
Throughout this period, the BSA has continued to develop and update educational materials for youth members, including a Youth Protection comic book series for Cub Scouts and personal safety awareness training videos, which are now used both within Scouting and by schools, sports programs, and other community youth groups. Most of these materials are now available in both English and Spanish.
9) Is it true the BSA maintains confidential reports on incidents of abuse within Scouting? How are they used?
Yes. The BSA is proactive in collecting and acting upon many kinds of information, including tips and hearsay, even if that information cannot be proven in a court of law. When the BSA receives such information from the local community, the BSA adds their name to the Ineligible Volunteer Files, whether or not the adults were Scout leaders and whether or not the youth involved were Scouts. Centralizing this information helps the BSA identify and keep out persons who are or might be ineligible to serve as volunteer leaders. Used in conjunction with national background checks, the Ineligible Volunteer Files enable Scouting to act more quickly, even on suspicion alone, to identify and keep out persons who have been determined to be ineligible to serve as volunteer leaders. Scouts are safer because of the Ineligible Volunteer Files.
10)Are recent enhancements to the BSA’s youth protection efforts a direct response to recent litigation?
While recent litigation certainly contributes to the organization’s collective knowledge, the BSA’s youth protection efforts have consistently expanded along with the changing awareness of the dangers and challenges facing youth, and the BSA continues to review Youth Protection policies, procedures, and training materials to identify opportunities for continued improvement. The ongoing review and enhancement of how to best protect Scouting youth has always been the focus of the BSA and continues to include experts from various disciplines, including law enforcement and child psychology.
Know the Facts: BSA Ineligible Volunteer Files
The Boy Scouts of America refuses to compromise on the safety of our youth. As part of our comprehensive screening and youth protection efforts, prompt reporting of inappropriate conduct with youth is required of all Scout leaders. The BSA records such allegations in the Ineligible Volunteer Files—whether or not the adults involved were Scout leaders or the youth involved were Scouts. By being proactive and acting upon many kinds of information—including tips and hearsay that cannot be proven in a court of law—the BSA has successfully kept dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals, as well as inappropriate role models, out of our organization.
Scouts are safer because of the Ineligible Volunteer Files. Recent efforts have sought to make the files public and suggest that the BSA is trying to hide something by maintaining their confidentiality. That is far from the truth. The following provides additional information about how they help protect our members, and why their confidentiality is important.
The Ineligible Volunteer Files are an important part of the BSA’s comprehensive focus on youth protection.
Youth protection is of paramount importance to the BSA. Accordingly, the BSA developed a three-pronged youth protection program, including local and national screening of adult volunteers, education and training, and clear policies to protect youth members. The Ineligible Volunteer Files are used as part of the national registration process that follows a leader’s selection by the local chartered organization, prior to granting membership.
The use of the files at the time of application is a long-standing and well-documented process.
While the records maintained by the BSA are confidential, their existence is a well-known component of Scouting’s registration process. Their use has been referenced as far back as the 1930s in books, Scout publications, and news articles.
The files provide an added layer of protection to criminal background checks.
Today, any adult who wants to join Scouting must pass a criminal background check, but the BSA began collecting information on those ineligible to be volunteers well before computers and other electronic databases were available. The process that exists today is much the same as it was then and has proven to be effective in keeping potentially dangerous or inappropriate individuals out of Scouting. It is actually very simple: The Ineligible Volunteer Files links a name with information that led the BSA to determine that the individual was not suitable to lead youth. As part of the membership application process, the names of adult applicants approved by local chartered organizations are cross-referenced with the names included in the Ineligible Volunteer Files. If the individual appears in the files, he or she is not permitted to join Scouting.
Files are updated any time a determination is made that an individual should not serve.
Scouting policies require prompt reporting of any inappropriate conduct with youth, whether in a Scout unit or in the larger community. Whenever the BSA receives such a report from the local community, the national organization creates a record, whether or not the adults were Scout leaders and whether or not the youth involved were Scouts. In some instances, the allegations cannot be proven to the degree required by a criminal court, but the person is still banned from Scouting. Centralizing this information helps the BSA act more quickly (on suspicion alone in some instances) to identify and keep out persons who have been determined to be ineligible to serve as volunteer leaders.
The sole purpose of the files is to prevent those deemed ineligible from registering as Scout leaders.
The Ineligible Volunteer Files maintained by the BSA have always served solely as a barrier to entry preventing those who are ineligible to serve as Scout leaders from joining or rejoining Scouting. Suggesting that they would provide any greater insight from a research perspective reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose and content of the files. The BSA believes—and independent, third-party experts have confirmed—there is nothing in the files that would further the research field or help develop a profile to prevent abuse.
The confidentiality of the Ineligible Volunteer Files encourages prompt reporting.
BSA members are instructed to report any suspicion of abuse to local authorities and Scout executives, but BSA has always believed that victims and their families have the right to choose for themselves whether to share their stories publicly. People are more likely to come forward to report real or perceived misconduct if they can do so confidentially.
100 Years of Enhancing Efforts to Protect Youth
Recognizing that youth protection requires sustained vigilance, the BSA continues to be on the forefront of developing youth protection policies to strengthen and enhance efforts to protect youth through clear policies, training of adult volunteers, and effective screening of volunteers.
Following are the steps Scouting has taken throughout the past 100 years in an effort to create a safe environment for its youth.
- The Boy Scouts of America incorporates on February 8.
- The BSA institutes character reference checks for Scoutmasters.
- The BSA begins a long-standing collaboration with parents and chartered organizations in selecting Scout leaders.
- The BSA requires Scoutmasters and Scouts to register in order to participate in Scouting programs.
- The BSA begins cross-referencing all adult volunteers against a list of “ineligible volunteers” maintained at its national headquarters. This practice of identifying individuals deemed by the BSA as not having the moral, emotional, or character values for membership in the BSA is later discussed in William D. Murray’s 1937 book titled The History of the Boy Scouts of America.
- The BSA expands adult registration to include every male adult involved in Scouting.
- Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. states that leadership is a sacred trust and discusses the existence and use of the confidential list of ineligible volunteers to protect youth.
- The BSA begins developing standards for leadership as a guideline for screening adult leaders.
- The Scoutmaster Handbook directs that no troop engage in any activity without a minimum of two adult leaders.
- Scouting magazine runs an advertisement from the National Committee on the Prevention of Child Abuse. (Additional advertisements appear in 1983 and 1984.)
- Scouting magazine presents the BSA’s position on “Child Abuse and Scouting.”
- Scouting magazine provides information regarding a governmental publication entitled “Child Sexual Abuse Prevention—Tips to Parents.”
- Boys’ Life magazine, with a circulation of 1.2 million youth and unit leaders, publishes “Wrong Kind of Touching.”
- Scouting magazine publishes “Child Abuse—Let’s Talk About It” and an article about child abuse by Dr. Walter Menninger of the famed Menninger Clinic.
- Scouting magazine publishes an extensive article entitled “Child Abuse: Let’s Talk About It—A Statement by the Boy Scouts of America on Child Abuse,” which includes “the 12 points of the Child Bill of Rights.”
- Scouting magazine publishes “Child Sexual Abuse—How to Deal With It” and a letter from the Chief Scout Executive on “Grooming by a Child Abuser.”
- The BSA develops a camp staff training program, and the two-deep leadership policy, which requires two adult leaders at all Scouting activities, is formally adopted.
- Scouting magazine includes an article titled “Barriers Against Child Sexual Abuse.”
- The BSA produces A Time to Tell, a video that teaches 11- to 16-year-olds the three R’s of Youth Protection—how to recognize, resist, and report child abuse. More than 3,500 copies of the video are distributed in the first year.
- The Boy Scouts of America launches a new version of “Youth Protection Guidelines: Training for Volunteer Leaders and Parents.”
- The Boy Scout Handbook features an insert titled “How to Protect Your Children,” which includes exercises each new Scout is to complete with his parents when he joins Scouting.
- The insert titled “How to Protect Your Children” is also added to the Scoutmaster Handbook
- The BSA prohibits one-on-one adult and youth activities, and produces It Happened to Me, a video aimed at 7- to 10-year-olds, which is featured in Scouting magazine in an article entitled “A Must Film to See.”
- Representatives from Scouting serve as advisers to the U.S. government through participation on the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect.
- The Boy Scouts of America hosts the first National Child Abuse Prevention Symposium for educational, religious, and other youth-serving organizations.
- The BSA’s director of administration testifies before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on the Boy Scouts’ views on the national Child Protection Act of 1993, providing background information on the BSA and its Youth Protection program.
- The BSA requires criminal background checks for all professionals and staff who work with youth.
- The BSA updates its Youth Protection Guidelines for Volunteer Leaders and Parents video, addressing how an adult should identify whether a child has been or is being abused, and what the adult should do to protect the child.
- The BSA is an active member of the National Collaboration for Youth in its publication of Screening Volunteers to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse: A Community Guide for Youth Organizations, and the BSA’s director of administration is selected as the chair of the National Assembly of National Voluntary Health and Social Welfare Organizations’ Task Force on Child Sexual Abuse.
- The BSA’s Youth Protection comic book series for Cub Scouts is introduced, with the first issue focusing on bullying.
- Scouting magazine features an article highlighting the risk of child sexual abuse and proclaims April as “Youth Protection Month.”
- The BSA begins conducting third-party, computerized criminal background checks on all new adult volunteers and introduces online training: “Youth Protection Guidelines: Training for Adult Leaders and Parents.”
- The BSA revises the insert in the Boy Scout and Cub Scout handbooks. The organization updates and publishes several age-appropriate training materials and launches a new Adult Leader Application that encourages immediate online training for Youth Protection and other immediate needs.
- The BSA updates It Happened to Me and includes the topic of pornography and suicide in “Personal Safety Awareness” training materials aimed at teenagers.
- The BSA requires all volunteers to go through a full criminal background check.
- Scouting implements Youth Protection requirements for youth to advance in rank and addresses bullying and cybersafety.
- The BSA produces a video entitled Cub Scout and Boy Scout Youth Protection.
- The BSA addresses the use of cameras, imaging, and digital devices by youth and adults, and updates Youth Protection materials and guidelines.
- The BSA updates “How to Protect Your Children From Child Abuse: A Parent’s Guide.”
- The Scoutmaster Handbook includes a section on Youth Protection Guidelines referencing BSA Youth Protection materials, the three R’s of Youth Protection, and BSA policies on Youth Protection.
- The BSA hires Michael “Mike” Johnson as Youth Protection Director who is an internationally recognized expert on child abuse detection and prevention.
- The BSA makes Youth Protection training mandatory for all registered adult members and requires it to be repeated every two years.
- Parents are advised on the BSA youth membership application that abuse can occur “even in Scouting,” and advises them of Youth Protection training and the two-deep leadership policy.
- Scouting launches a new campaign called “Youth protection begins with you”™, which underscores the fundamental belief that the protection of youth—in Scouting and in local communities—can be best achieved through the shared involvement of parents, volunteers, leaders, and council staff.
- Mandatory reporting of child abuse.
CDC Report: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations
Youth-serving organizations strive to create a safe environment for youth, employees, and volunteers so that youth can grow, learn, and have fun. Part of creating a safe environment is making sure that youth are not harmed in any way while participating in organization-sponsored activities. One risk in any organization working directly with youth is child sexual abuse.
It is vital that organizations create a culture where child sexual abuse is discussed, addressed, and prevented.
This report is designed for representatives of youth-serving organizations who are interested in adopting strategies to prevent child sexual abuse. Whether these strategies are developed within the context of an overall risk management plan or are addressed separately, organizations need to examine how they can protect youth from sexual abuse.
Read the full report.
Mandatory Youth Protection Training for Adult Volunteers
Youth protection is of paramount importance to the Boy Scouts of America. Recognizing that this commitment requires sustained vigilance, the BSA has continued to develop and enhance its efforts to protect youth. BSA has taken the following steps:
- Youth Protection training is required for all BSA registered volunteers, regardless of their position.
- New leaders are required to take Youth Protection training.
- Youth Protection training must be taken every two years. If a volunteer’s Youth Protection training record is not current at the time of recharter, the volunteer will not be reregistered.