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BSA hosts 23 other organizations at National Youth Protection Symposium

youth-protectionThe Boy Scouts of America is continually working to remain a leader among youth-serving organizations in the fight against child abuse. And kids who are abused outside of Scouting have a better chance of recovering and thriving by joining youth-serving organizations like Scouting.

Those were two of my big takeaways after attending the two-day National Youth Protection Symposium this week in Grapevine, Texas.

The BSA was one of 24 youth-serving organizations at the event. These organizations, which serve a combined 20 million youth, gathered to listen to the top minds in abuse prevention and share best practices. The common goal: keep kids safe from those who might do them harm.

One of the experts who spoke was Victor Vieth, executive director of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center.

He said that the majority of abuse cases happen within the home, and the perpetrator is usually someone the boy or girl knows. In other words, throw out the stereotype of the unknown individual we were warned about in those “Stranger Danger” videos.

This revelation puts Scout leaders in a unique position not only to help recognize, stop and report abuse within the organization but also to look for signs of physical or emotional abuse in Scouts in their unit. These might be physical bruises or behavioral signs of emotional trauma at home. When in doubt, get another adult and have a conversation with the young man or young woman to learn more.

If you do suspect a Scout or Venturer has been abused, you are required — not just expected — to report it to the proper authorities. That’s something you already learned in Youth Protection Training. That mandatory reporting requirement makes the BSA a leader among youth-serving organizations, Vieth said.

He told the other youth-serving organizations, “You should do what the Boy Scouts have done” and require mandatory reporting for all adults.

Despite the uncomfortable subject matter of the symposium, there was good news: Youth-serving organizations like the Boy Scouts of America “can help children who are abused become more resilient,” Vieth said. “By taking kids on a hike, you can help them overcome.

“You can be that amazing person they don’t have in their home life. So many [abused] kids have said to their researchers that the reason I turned out OK was because that guy at the Boy Scouts was so different from mom and dad. All of a sudden they’re being taught violence isn’t the norm. You are building those characteristics.”

A Team Effort

The BSA’s Youth Protection strategy is strong, but we are not in this fight alone. Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock said collaboration is key.

He said the organization won’t rest until we stop abuse in this country, period. That means inside and outside of Scouting. And that’s why Brock and other top BSA leaders made attending the symposium a top priority.

As with last year’s symposium, the BSA’s volunteers and professionals did much more listening than talking. BSA speakers were at the podium for less than 45 minutes over the two-day event. The rest of the time, they heard the latest research, much of it confirming what the organization already incorporates into its mandatory Youth Protection Training.

They also held meaningful discussions with colleagues in other youth-serving organizations. Susan Woessner, director of safe sport for USA Swimming, underlined why working together to fight child abuse makes sense.

We’re really all serving the same kids,” she says. “The kids that swim are in the Boy Scouts, and they go to church and they go to camp. We should give them consistent messaging about abuse prevention, about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and interactions with the adults in their lives.”

Dr. James S. “Jim” Wilson, chairman of the BSA’s National Youth Protection Committee and a Silver Buffalo recipient, agreed.

That’s why, as the symposium’s volunteer host, he helped Michael Johnson, Youth Protection director of the BSA, organize representatives from American Heritage Girls, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Kiwanis International, Girl Scouts of the USA, Scouts Canada and other youth-serving organizations — in addition to the best and brightest nationally recognized child protection experts.

“Let’s put together a group of folks that will look to the future,” he said. “That’s why you’re here. We want this to be a collaborative effort where we are looking to the future to see how we can do things differently. Not just in the Boy Scouts but in every youth-serving organization.”

The attendees watched interviews with convicted child molesters, they heard terrifyingly true stories of abused children and they vigorously took notes as sobering statistics were revealed.

What You Can Do

At this point you may be asking how can you as a Scout leader help stop these evils. It all boils down to not being afraid to take action, and that was a big takeaway for me.

Oftentimes we hear people say, “Somebody ought to do something about this.” But oftentimes the person who says that doesn’t see himself or herself as somebody. You and I are somebody.

We have an expression in Scouting that “Youth Protection begins with You.” That really means that Youth Protection can be best achieved through the shared involvement of everyone in Scouting. This includes Scouting professionals, volunteers and leaders, parents and anyone who works to keep kids safe and certainly anyone who becomes aware of possible abuse.

It’s about stepping up and saying, “I will do something about this” and helping provide a safe environment for youth.

The stakes couldn’t be bigger. Our youth are counting on us.

22 Comments on BSA hosts 23 other organizations at National Youth Protection Symposium

  1. Fred Heilbrunn // October 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm // Reply

    What were the other 23 organizations? Just saying that there are others in attendance adds nothing to the credibility of the statement. Who are they?

    • I don’t have a complete list on hand, but I did mention several in the post.

      • Fred Heilbrunn // October 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm // Reply

        Half a dozen does not two dozen make.

        • What the heck is your point, Fred? Implying that Bryan would somehow be lying about this statistic–whatever the motivation for that could possibly be–is uncalled for and insulting.

        • Fred Heilbrunn // October 17, 2013 at 7:45 am //

          It is what it it is. I am simply tired of duplicitous answers from BSA and its apologists like Bryan. Just give me a straight answer. If Bryan (or anyone else for that matter) feels insulted, they can put on their big boy pants all by themselves and say so.

        • Fred, I’m not insulted. I would, however, remind you to please be Friendly, Courteous, and Kind to your fellow Scouters whether online or in person.

          Fact is, there were 24 youth-serving organizations there. I know. I attended the symposium. If I’m able to publish a list of those groups here, I will. If not, you’ll have to accept that I’m being Trustworthy.

        • Fred Heilbrunn // October 17, 2013 at 9:09 am //

          Bryan,

          You may very well be Trustworthy, most individuals in Scouting are. But BSA, Inc. is not. You have put yourself in the role of a spokesman, and, in doing so, places doubt on the credibility of your message.

          All I have done is ask a simple question. It is I who has been subjected to an unfriendly reception.

          Still awaiting a straight answer, like others who have posted here.

        • Fred, the door is open. Feel free to walk out of it. You’re too bitter to be involved in any way with Scouts.

        • Fred Heilbrunn // October 17, 2013 at 10:11 am //

          Still waiting for a straight answer…..

    • Got a great idea, Fred. Go to http://www.nationalyouthprotectionsymposium.org/ and look – some are mentioned, but what is important is what was covered. I don’t know of many symposia which publish a complete list of the attendees, Some could come personally[i.e., professionally] , not necessarily representing a specific organization, or they might have a position in several organizations. While it would be interesting to know who all attended, I wonder if, basis your reaction, you have an agenda beyond getting the list.

      I fault BSA in some things (some simply stupid things [on which I've written Bryan, and hope he'll cover some day], some non-transparency things) but this is not one of them.

      I read all (I hope) of your posts on this, and I think Bryan deserves an apology, not for your asking the question, for it was a good question if all the information were immediately and easily available, but for the rude way you handled someone not serving your answers on a silver platter.

      • Fred Heilbrunn // October 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm // Reply

        I have no agenda beyond simply getting an answer. I had previously checked that website before I asked, and if the answer had been there I would have been satisfied. So I ask a question and get nothing but obfuscation and antagonism. Very Scoutlike indeed!

        My objection with BSA Inc. has more to do with lack of transparency and failure to live the ideals we supposedly share. I do commend the leadership in the field regarding youth protection. I merely wanted to know who was taking advantage of that expertise.

        According to Bryan, he felt no insult so no apology is warranted. On the other hand, apologies are certainly due to me, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for them.

        I’m no longer waiting for my answer — I see that georgesparks2013 posted a decent list elsewhere in this thread. Many thanks for that!

  2. Kelly M. Horton // October 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm // Reply

    Was someone from Royal Rangers present? When I was the Senior Commander, I required background check on ALL of the adult leaders. People in church thought I was out of my head. I thought they were out of their heads by not having it being required. It only takes one person to give the unit a black eye. And yes, I did reject many people as being an adult leader. They got their feelings hurt, but oh well, so swell.

  3. James Lehman, Jr. // October 16, 2013 at 7:14 pm // Reply

    As in so many social activities (and by social, I mean things that are done by some folks that affect other folks), the correction of an evil starts when SOMEBODY considers it evil and stands up and says “that’s wrong”. Slavery, anti semitism, animal cruelty, prejudice in hiring or school acceptance, bullying at school, bigotry of any kind does not end unless someone sees that it is not right, and says so. In time, others will join. The personal courage that takes can be hard if not at times impossible to consider, but every so often, someone does step up and point a finger. BSA despite past poor performance, has npow taken a lead in helping people in doing that, in “allowing ” them to do what’s right.
    I would also like to see the list of the 23 organizations that participated..

  4. Was Trail Life USA invited?

    • Trail Life wasn’t there. Neither one of their members could attend.

  5. Here’s the website: http://www.nationalyouthprotectionsymposium.org/

    • silly me. you had it in the article. passed right over the link.

  6. AP News report on the symposium here: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20131014-boy-scouts-symposium-on-child-abuse-prevention-begins-in-grapevine.ece

    Smaller one here: http://news92fm.com/391285/boy-scouts-hold-child-abuse-forum-in-dallas-area/

  7. I really would like a listing of the other organizations involved or attending. I work with several organizations and BSA is best at trying to prevent child abuse, but I like to track how other organizations are finally getting with the program.

    • georgesparks2013 // October 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm // Reply

      I attended the symposium and have a list of organizations which participated. This is not a complete list, but is what I noted as representatives introduced themselves: Girl Scouts, Chicago Archdiocese Office of Youth Protection, American Heritage Girls, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. Olympic Committee, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Trail Life, U.S.A. Swimming, National Catholic Committee on Scouting, General Commission of United Methodist Men, Kanakuk Kamps, Boy Scouts of America, Child Advocacy Office Archdiocese of Chicago, Virtus, United States Youth Soccer, National Center for Missing and Exploited Youth, Gunderson National Child Protection Training Center.

      • Fred Heilbrunn // October 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm // Reply

        Many thanks for your answer. I truly appreciate that someone here can respond in a direct fashion.

  8. Im really sad to see that some people can not and will not accept that the BSA is trying to right its wrongs and make sure that the safety of their members is the priority of each and every person in scouting. Yes there have been things that have happened in the past that we dont ever want to have happen again. But that is the past. If we dont accept the past, find the things we did wrong, put policies and procedures in place to make sure we dont make the same mistakes moving forward, accept these new changes and put everything into making those changes work, then we are destined to make the same mistakes over and over again. People that remain suspicious and confrontational do nothing to move us forward. They just serve to keep us lingering in the past. This does nothing to help keep boys and other youth safe. Remembering the past and mistakes that were made is a good thing, it keeps us moving forward. Living in the past is harmful to the movement. So as my husband likes to say about people like this, if you cant be a part of the solution, it means you’re a part of the problem.. I would like to think that we are ALL a part of the solution! Our Pack takes Youth Protection seriously. It isnt just something that is done in order to be a part of the Pack. I have no hesitation in weeding out parents or other individuals in our Pack that are not willing to follow the rules and support our mission of keeping boys in Scouting safe. There is no room in Scouting for these people. Period. :)

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