Youth Protection Champions: Who they are, and why you should care

youth-protectionHave a Youth Protection question you’re not comfortable asking some stranger at the council or national level? Ever feel like Youth Protection is “too national” and doesn’t directly apply to your unit?

I hear you. And so does the BSA’s National Youth Protection committee.

Check out the new Youth Protection Champions program, debuting later this year. Starting with the unit-level Champion and going all the way down to the volunteer who chairs the national YP committee, the program is designed to keep Youth Protection on everyone’s mind by embedding key barriers to abuse into every aspect of the program and every unit in Scouting.

A unit-level Champion’s job is about more than just making sure everyone is Youth Protection trained. (By the way, if your training isn’t up-to-date, fix that immediately.) The Champions fill in that two-year gap between trainings to promote new initiatives, increase awareness, distribute materials, and monitor the unit’s Youth Protection strategy.

The timing’s perfect, because April is Youth Protection Month. Follow the jump for a first look at this important new program, including the Champion’s roles and how someone like you can become a Champion.

The Inverted Pyramid

inverted-pyramidJim Wilson, chairman of the National Executive Board’s Youth Protection committee, has an out-of-the-box way to look at Youth Protection. He sees it as an upside-down pyramid.

The Scouts and Venturers, who everyone agrees are our most-important groups, are the largest and sit at the top of the pyramid. Then comes the unit-level Champions, who are as important as they are numerous.

Next, we’ve got the district Champions, then the council Champions, the area Champions, region Champions, and the national YP committee — that little point way at the bottom.

Approaching Youth Protection this way underlines the importance of Scouts and Scout leaders in making Youth Protection a top priority. The slogan “Youth Protection Begins With You” encapsulates this mindset.

Keep the inverted pyramid visual in mind when you consider your unit’s approach to Youth Protection.

What Does a Unit-Level Champion Do?

cyber-chipLots. Here are a few of the key responsibilities:

Youth Protection Training: The initial focus of unit Champions will be to get 100 percent of the unit Youth Protection trained. In some units, that’s already happening. In others, someone needs to be that bug in the ears of volunteers  telling them to get trained as soon as possible. That message is a lot more effective coming from a fellow unit leader than someone at the district or council, I think, and that’s why a unit Champion has so much value. But training is just the beginning …

Awareness: When the BSA rolls out Youth Protection-related material, such as the popular Cyber Chip, the unit Champion can bring that information directly to his or her pack, troop, team, or crew. Champions will also be instrumental in communicating news about the BSA’s upcoming anti-bullying initiative.

Monitoring: The Champion isn’t a Youth Protection police officer, per se. Instead, he or she is responsible for developing and monitoring the unit’s strategy for delivering Youth Protection training and following its core principles. But vigilance is part of it, too. If the unit isn’t following BSA Youth Protection policies and procedures, the Champion should alert the Scoutmaster and committee chairman right away.

Reporting: A unit Champion should provide feedback to his or her committee about any impediments to volunteers and parents taking YP training. A Champion should make sure activities and events are consistent with BSA policies and procedures — ensuring there will be enough adults and separate restroom facilities at an upcoming event, for example. The unit Champion can be in contact with his or her district Champion to offer feedback about the BSA’s Youth Protection strategy.

How Do I Become a Champion?

yp-patchThis isn’t something you volunteer for. Unit-level Champions are appointed by the unit committee, which reports the person’s name to the council. Stay tuned for more information as the program rolls out (see below for more details).

In the meantime, here are the desired qualifications for the position. Keyword is desired, because not every unit-level Champion will have everything on the list:

  • Youth-protection oriented volunteer, probably a committee member
  • Expertise in social services, law enforcement, criminal justice, abuse prevention, investigation, intervention, policy creation, sex-offender treatment, child-abuse therapy, children’s advocacy, victim advocacy, or forensics
  • Educational or professional background in child abuse, with knowledge of youth victimization

Someone with these skills would be well-equipped to answer sensitive questions a unit leader might have but might not want to take to his or her council just yet. Of course, any time you suspect something illegal is going on, especially involving children, call the police right away.

The plan is for Youth Protection Champions to receive special-edition patches that will be easily recognizable by others — especially helpful when someone has a Youth Protection question out in the field and isn’t sure whom to ask.

Tentative Rollout Plans

Wilson, the national committee chairman, says he hopes every council will have a council-level Champion by the end of 2013. So look for more information about unit-level Champions late this year or early next.

Stay tuned. While the Champion program details are being finalized, nothing is stopping you from championing Youth Protection in your unit.

Hassle all your volunteers until you have 100 percent of them trained. Make sure your Scouts are staying safe online by bringing the Cyber Chip program to your unit. And most of all, remember that “Youth Protection Begins With You.”

Photo from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by Preston Kemp

About Bryan Wendell 3286 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.