In 1908, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouting, wrote: “The aim of Scout training is to improve the standard of our future citizenhood, especially in character and health; to replace self with service, to make the lads individually efficient, morally and physically, with the object of using that efficiency for service for their fellow-men.”
After 100 years, it is clear that BSA has achieved our founder’s objectives and continues to advance these core values today, serving an annual membership of over 2 million youth members in cities and towns across America. This success depends on—and is a tribute to—more than a million adult volunteers, who through their own example, teach our youth members how to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. I speak for the entire Scouting family when I say we are tremendously proud of what we’ve accomplished together—and what we’re continuing to do to prepare the youth of today to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Unfortunately, there also have been instances in which our organization—like other organizations serving youth—has had volunteers who have not upheld our values. In doing so, these volunteers have broken the trust of our organization, the local groups that appointed them as leaders, and most egregious of all, the youth and families who participated in their Scouting units. To be sure, this is a very small percentage of volunteers who have abused their positions in Scouting to harm a child or have engaged in conduct inconsistent with the values of Scouting. Let us be clear: Even one incident of abuse is too many. We are deeply saddened that any such situation could happen, especially if it happens in Scouting.
We also want to let the world know that we are fighting back as an organization, consistently enhancing and expanding our youth protection efforts in line with the changing awareness of the dangers and challenges facing today’s youth.
Our youth protection efforts comprise four key components: (1) a multi-layered volunteer application and screening process, including local selection and screening, national criminal background checks, and verification that Scouting has received no prior allegations of inappropriate conduct; (2) extensive training programs designed specifically to teach Scouts and adult volunteers how to recognize and prevent abuse; (3) clear policies that create barriers to abuse of youth members; and (4) mandatory reporting of allegation or suspicion of abuse.
To cite just a few recent advancements, in June 2010 the Boy Scouts of America made Youth Protection training mandatory and now requires all of our registered adult volunteers to repeat training every two years. We also hired Mike Johnson, an internationally recognized expert on child abuse detection and prevention, to further augment and help provide leadership to Scouting’s youth protection efforts. Mike, together with other professional and volunteer Scouters have been reviewing—and will continue to enhance—our Youth Protection policies, procedures, and training materials to strive to be at the forefront of youth protection.
Our focus on protecting youth is now more important than ever. The Boy Scouts of America understands and appreciates that millions of youth members, their parents, and volunteers depend on Scouting to maintain its high standard for youth safety. You have our commitment that we will continue our efforts, focusing always on the best interests and safety of our members.