Who can sign off on Boy Scout requirements?

scoutcast-logo1It’s a question every Scout will face: Once I finish requirements for merit badges and rank advancement, who signs off?

Is it the Scoutmaster? The merit badge counselor? My senior patrol leader? Mom or Dad?

The answer is all of the above. Or at least it can be — if the Scoutmaster says so.

Wayne Huddleston, a volunteer who serves as the Eagle rank specialist for the National Advancement Task Force, hopped on ScoutCast with us to answer that question.

“Topic 4.2.1.2 in the Guide to Advancement states that the Scoutmaster authorizes individuals who may test and pass a Scout on rank requirements,” he says. “The Scoutmaster can choose to designate youth leaders or other adult leaders if he wants to. It’s really up to him to make that decision.”

The question — Who can sign off on Boy Scout requirements? — is the topic of the June 2016 ScoutCast. Listen here or search for “ScoutCast” on your favorite podcasting app to hear the nine-minute episode.

Who signs off on merit badge requirements?

“That’s the responsibility of a merit badge counselor,” Huddleston says, “and only individuals who are registered and approved by the council as a merit badge counselor can sign off on merit badges. Even unit leaders such as the Scoutmaster must be registered as a merit badge counselor and approved by the local council for any merit badges they wish to counsel. They just can’t do it because of the fact that they’re a leader in the unit.”

And that means once a Scout finishes the Family Life merit badge, he can’t turn to Mom or Dad for a signature. Unless, of course, the parent is a registered and approved
merit badge counselor.

Hear more

For more of this fascinating discussion, listen to the latest episode of ScoutCast.

Send us your ScoutCast topic ideas

This month’s topic idea came from Richard Eitzel.

When Eitzel found out his question was being turned into an entire episode, he wrote the ScoutCast team to say thanks.

“I just listened to the latest ScoutCast,” he writes. “Thanks so much! That did help and reinforced a few things we were doing correctly. Thanks to Bryan and Lee. And please tell Bryan that my son and I were both impressed that he pronounced our last name perfectly. It’s rarely done.”

I’ll admit that the pronunciation was a lucky guess.

But no luck is needed to get your question answered in a future episode.

Your first step: send your idea to ScoutCast@scouting.org or tweet us @BSAScoutCast.

72 Comments

  1. I’ve come back from Scout Camps where a Scout has only a partial MB completion (ex Fishing MB and the Scout wasn’t able to catch & cook a fish). The camp staff says that the Scout’s leader(s) may sign off on the remaining requirement(s) for completion of the MB.
    Is the staff allowed to grant this “authority” even if the SM isn’t a registered counselor for that MB?

      • I disagree. We live in a rural area with a large distance between us and summer camp. And some counselors are staff that either attend college or otherwise not available to sign off on partials. Scoutmasters have received approval from council to sign off on partials provided the staff lists what needs to be done and obviously are ok with it. Besides, not every merit badge is available to earn since ones taught at camp do not have counselors nearby to fill in for the original.

    • Any method that is acceptable to a registered MB counselor and that does not add or subtract form the written MB requirements is ok. The MB counselor still has to ‘sign off’, but they can accept a note from a leader, a parent or any other reliable source they accept, so long as the written MB requirement doe s not require something else.

      Every year we have a mad dash between the end of camp and the September COH to get those last few incompletes finished up, for which you DO need a MB counselor’s signature.

    • Too many troops allowed their SM to sign off on unfinished summer camp requirements for a Merit Badge. The SM should not do that unless they are registered for that MB. If no one in the troop is a MBC for that MB, they need to find one outside the troop; or someone in the troop needs to add that MB to their portfolio.

      • Our Solution is the SM and ASM are registered MBC and are registered for all merit badges (Council has never rejected or questioned). Our policy (unwritten) is that this is used to address partial completion from summer camp and other unique situations.

  2. I have a question does SPL or ASPL do they just tell the boys what to do give orders and not participate in helping. Like for example their in a camp or getting ready in loading up. Do they participate in helping or not just tell them what to do.

    Thank you

    • No rules per se, but I think leading by example is a characteristic of a strong leader. I believe the leader should look to serve first and lead second.

      • SPL / ASPL are the senior most leaders in the troop. They are supposed to delegate to the PL / APL what jobs need to be completed. I tell my senior leaders that leading be example is the best kind of leadership. I use this example of the lone scout who has to clean the latreine at the campsite at summer camp. The leader who stops by and gives the scout a hand has just made him a scout who will help him anytime. I always tell my boys a leader does because it needs doing. Not because he is the in charge. All scouts are helpful, so you help.

        • The Delegator is certainly one version of the SPL. Another version is the Facilitator, meaning the senior-most leaders are the PLs, and the SPL exists to help coordinate efforts between the PLs, not to direct them.

    • This can be entirely dependent on the situation. The SPL may delegate the job of cleaning up the camp site to a patrol so that he can turn his attention elsewhere, like loading supplies on the truck, or cleaning the equipment. After he has delegated all the jobs to lower ranking scouts he may find himself with idol time. In that case I would expect that he would pitch in and help where needed. So yes, a leader should be working at all times, they just may have a different set of tasks/concerns from the workers.

    • This is what is great about scouting. It gives scouts a chance to develop a leadership style. I think many new SPLs start out thinking that they will just be directing work, but they quickly realize that being a leader is more work than just being the one who is assigned the task. An SPL who pitches in will also find themselves much more likely to get elected again than one who likes to just order people around – the scouts themselves usually know who they can rely on to get things done.

    • Any job that you wouldn’t do yourself should never be expected of others.

      EDGE: Educate, DEMONSTRATE, Guide, Enable.

    • If your SPL / ASPL are simply giving orders, then they are a boss. There are no bosses in the youth for scouts. Likewise, if they are failing to delegate then they are acting like a micro-manager where they need their hands on everything. The purpose of leadership is to teach delegation and participation at all levels. The SPL & ASPL should work with the guidance of the Scoutmaster to ensure all tasks are scout oriented and relative to the needs of the troop. The Scoutmaster approves the plan or delegates the plan as necessary to the SPL. From there the SPL should enlist the ASPL to assist in leading the tasks as necessary. The SPL should delegate tasks so that everyone has their hands working. Once everyone is engaged in a task, the SPL should then step in and get involved as well. The SPL’s main purpose is to ensure the smooth functioning of the whole troop. So he should not be fully engaged in any single task that another scout can do. However, if your SPL is not involved also, then he should be instructed on leadership qualities.

  3. The first three paragraphs are misleading. The article,as written, appears to state that the answer to “Once I finish requirements for merit badges….who signs off?” is “all of the above [Scoutmaster, SPL, Mon or Dad etc.]. Or at least it can be — if the Scoutmaster says so.”. Simply NOT true….When you finish the requirements for a MB it is up to a MB Counselor and ONLY a MB counselor to ‘sign you off’ on the MB. It could be ANY approved MB counselor, but it must be a MB Counselor.

    I am sure it was just poor wording.

    • Absolutely. They should have broken the question into two parts. Who can sign ranks requirements? Aren’t MBs different? Also remember it’s not ANY MB counselor who can sign a partial, it is a registered MBC for that specific badge.

  4. Pretty much agree with what was said about merit badges. Final approval/sign off must be by an approved counsellor for that badge. Now for rank advancement, you need to ask “are we a boy led organization or not?” If the answer is no, then I agree with what was said. If the answer is yes, then it should be boys signing off on requirements for other boys. Which boys, well in our troop the rule is you must be greater then one rank above then what your signing. Most often APL, PL, ASPL, SPL, and guides sign off. This is a growth and learning opportunity for the boys. Yes, mistakes happen. One boy was signed off on first class swimming, he can barely swim. The SPL who signed off on him was at fault, not the scout. We discussed why he did what he did, what he should have done, and ultimately he grew through the experience. Of course, only a scoutmaster can dig off the scoutmaster conference and advancement the Board of Review. But, for most of the others it should be scout-on-scout.

  5. This seems to be tilted toward merit badges, but that’s okay. With concurrence of the SM is the key point. If a troop’s junior leaders are properly trained and experienced, they should be the “first line” of signers for the basic rank requirements (“basic” not “lower” remember, a Tenderfoot is just as much a Scout as an Eagle). I would like to see MBCs with solid credentials for the badges they are signing, not simply appointed and submitting an adult application.

    • It seems you have to have less credentials to sign off on a rank requirement than to sign off on a mb.

      • Don’t get lost in the semantics. Rank advancements are done by the authority of the SM – if it’s a youth leader, it’s because the SM authorized him to. A MB is under the authority of an approved counselor. Ultimately, the Counselor is responsible to determine if the boy completed the MB. If he allows a parent or unit leader to record completion of the task, he is ultimately the one who validates it. It is essentailly the same thing.

      • If the Scouts signing off on advancement ARE that rank or higher, then they have the credentials. I’d rather see a First Class Scout who is a PL signing off on requirements than a brand new adult who just crossed over and only has basic training. IOLS does not require mastery of the skills like ranks do.

        • Earning a scout rank does not indicate mastery of the skills either. It only indicates a basic knowledge. Most scouts need repeated exposure well past the sign off – in order to gain mastery of the skills. When I was a scout, we had the instructor position. You had to prove to the SM that you had mastered the scout skills (and were usually at least a Star Scout) before you could sign off on basic rank skills. (we also had the old belt loops too – those were much better organized than the current haphazard bunch of skills)

        • Maybe I’m old school, but I believe a Scout should “…master the skills…” as William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt wrote in multiple editions of the Boy Scout Handbook in order to advance. So if a Scout is wearing a First Class Rank on his uniform, I expect him to be able to do the requirements from Scout to First Class.

          There were only 2 things I liked about the Improved Scouting Program of the 1970s. One of them is Skill Awards. I agree, skill instruction seems more haphazard with the current rank set up. But Skill Awards didn’t exist for the first 62 years of Scouting. So I can understand doing away with them.

          The other thing I liked was Scouts sitting on BORs.

          Doing away with both in 1989 was a mistake in my opinion.

  6. I am probably old school, but I believe that once a boy crosses over from Cub Scouts or joins Boy Scouts, that is the end of parent sign off. We have too many participation trophy parents out there now that would sign off just to get to the next rank instead of really learning the skills.

    • I agree that with BestR that parents should NOT sign off. Not that they are necessarily untrustworthy, but not having the parent sign off removes any question.

      As far as merit badge training to be a MB counselor, all I really got out of the training was don’t allow less or require more than the listed requirements. The requirement should be set up to have you registered as a counselor. If the boy can understand the requirement, then the adult should also be able to, so while indicating your area of interest, any MB counselor ought to be able to sign of on any MB.

      And why do you need to fill out yet another adult application if you already have, and have had your background checked. Could’t there be a simple form wherein you only have to provide your scout ID number, and everything then is retrievable from that

      • I am a registered MB counselor and the Advancement Chair. I will NOT sign off anything for my son, unless it is in a group setting MB Class. And then he still keeps all of the proof that he did the work to show his SM.

    • Concur about Parents not Signing Off if at all possible There are cases where the parent might send a note saying that a certain requirement has been met. Possible ones are:
      1. Parent(s) & their new Scout have read & gone over the pullout section at the front of the HB (or the parent initials off on the back of the pullout).
      2. Rqt to save a certain amount of money. When it is met, the parent sends a note.
      3. Note to the Family Life MBC that the Scout has completed his project for his family and the family did their family project.
      4. I am sure there are several others that fall into this type.

      Or one could just take the Scout at his word that these requirements were met. After all, a Scout is trustworthy.

      • Re: New application for merit badge counsellor (MBC)

        MBC is a creature of the council, not the unit. The council may delegate to the district but until National goes to one ID per person nationwide (don’t hold your breath), not council wide, the process is what it is. I am registered in the Northern Lights Council with a certain ID. If I move 65 miles to the south and register in that Council, I would get a new ID. This may have made sense when the system was created, but in this day of almost real time electronic connection, it is an anachronism. Don’t expect me to make the call when my council and another may have one person each with the same numeric ID. That is way beyond the pay grade of a volunteer.

  7. From a parent that watched other parents (mom and dad) sign up for ALL the Eagle required badges and then sign both their boys off on all of the requirements, I believe that there should be a limit to the amount of merit badges, especially the eagle required ones that a parent can sign off of. In our family, if it was an Eagle required, we had our son locate a counselor through the website vs. using a family member. Plus it gave him a chance to work with other counselors. Some of which after reviewing his completed packets asked him to come to their meetings and show their troop’s scouts what a true complete merit badge packet should look like.It is too easy to have a parent just sign off and sign up for multiple patches.

    • From Section 7.0.1.4 of The Guide To Advancement:

      “The National Council does not place a limit on the number of merit badges a youth may earn from one counselor. However, in situations where a Scout is earning a large number of badges from just one counselor, the unit leader is permitted to place a limit on the number of merit badges that may be earned from one counselor, as long as the same limit applies to all Scouts in the unit. Approved counselors may work with and pass any member, including their own son, ward, or relative. “

    • I agreed with what you were saying until you got to the “completed merit badge packet” There is no such thing.
      While I really like the worksheets that have been put together and kept current by the dedicated scouters who make this happen……they are only tools!! Only to be used to help a scout have a better discussion with the counselor. They are not to be required (didn’t say that was the case here) and should certainly never be touted as anything other than another tool. Nothing different than using a blank sheet of paper that is subsequently numbered and notes taken down.

      • Exactly right. At a MB event, I do not make the Scouts use a worksheet or even read the Pamphlet. I highly suggest that they do, but can’t force them to do so. The Scout meets the requirements as written (nothing more & nothing less), he can do it by reading other things, taking notes on a blank piece of paper or on the notes section of their I-Phone, or just orally talking with the MBC w/o notes.

        At my event, I have 3-8 assistant MBCs who are all approved by the council. We sit down with each Scout and go over the requirements. There is 1 requirement that must be written (says so in the requirements) and the Scout has to show that to the MBC. The MBC & Scout then have a discussion to see if they have met the other requirements that state “discuss,” “demonstrate,” “tell,” etc.

  8. Ultimately, it’s up to the Unit Committee to validate the correct sign off on either. Who signs of on a book or who the Scout uses as a MB Counselor never leaves the unit. THe advancement paper work is the statement that it was done according to BSA policies.

  9. Well in my troop parents can never sign rank for there son. Even if he is the scoutmaster. The assistant steps in and does that part. Merit badges are ok but discourage. I prefer that boy to call someone and work with him.

    But I am open for some boys to sign off rank of a younger scout. I do get some flack over this, but certain adults that can sign. Older scouts will do great on this part and even better than the certian adults.

    • Concur. When I first joined our troop, I was a MBC for about a half-dozen MBs. I always encouraged my son to find another MBC when he could. When he couldn’t, I served as his MBC, but offered the MB up to the rest of the troop an hour earlier than the normal meeting time.

      I usually got 1-3 other Scouts to come to the first meeting, but then they had to go home and do some work (Collections, Genealogy, Scouting Heritage, and American Cultures) before we met again in a month. Usually, my son was the only one that had completed all the requirements in that time but told the other Scouts that when they completed the requirements to let me know & we could sit down before or after a troop meeting (YPT observed) to finish the MB. I think I only had one Scout that came back later as I made the Scouts meet the requirements, nothing more and nothing less. Some of them must they thought that they could just show up to receive the MB (like some MB Forums/Colleges/Universities) & were shocked when I wanted them to do exactly what was written in the requirements.

  10. In our troop, if a scout wants to get signed off on a rank requirement, he needs to work with a scout who is two ranks higher than the rank he is working on. We find that approach gives scouts an opportunity to teach each other while hopefully ensuring the scout doing the teaching is knowledgeable.

    We then look at their book during the BoR to see who signed them off on things. We may ask a few questions to gauge if they remember what they did – not to re-test, but to see how their scout-teacher did. We will then follow up with that scout if we feel they could use some additional coaching on how to check for proficiency.

    I usually get at least one request every outing to sign something off; I usually direct them to their patrol leader. The one exception may be the plant and animal ID requirements; I was a summer camp nature counselor and so usually am the one pointing out plants, birds, etc. on outings. Plants in particular seem to be a struggle so I will sign off on that requirement if asked. I try and find interesting habitats teach plants – we just toured a bog and saw Northern Pitcher Plants, round-lobed sundews, pink lady slipper orchids, and poison sumac!

  11. Our SM set the policy – parents do not sign off Rank Req. for their own kids. Also only the SM and ASMs can sign off on Rank Req.

    Merit badges must be approved with a specific counselor before starting. And when it comes to summer camp we only allow First Aid, Swimming, Cooking, Camping, Environmental Science, Lifesaving, and Sustainablility at summer camp. We’ve seen too many terrible MB counselors at camp, plus most of the other required MB can’t reasonable be earned to completion in a week at camp.

    Kids can take any non-required MB at camp or a MB fair as long as they let the SM know – blue card – prior to starting.

    We have in Troop counselors for all required MB except swimming/lifesaving.

    • While the SM can set the policy on who can sign off rank requirements, the troop (SM, Committee, or whoever) cannot limit how a Scout obtains a Merit Badge.

      While a SM can suggest that a Scout work with a certain MBC, either inside or outside the troop, a Scout can go to any MBC that they can locate. That could be inside their own troop, the district, council, or even outside the council.

      This is stated directly in the 2015 Guide to Advancement on Page 44: “Although it is the unit leader’s responsibility to see that at least one merit badge counselor is identified from those approved and made available, the Scout may have one in mind with whom he would like to work. The unit leader and Scout should come to agreement as to who the counselor will be. Lacking agreement, the Scout must be allowed to work with the counselor of his choice, so long as the counselor is registered and has been approved by the council
      advancement committee.”

      An individual or unit cannot add or subtract anything from the requirements, whether it is for a Merit Badge or rank advancement.

      • Actually a SM can limit how a scout obtains a MB. As stated about para 7.0.1.4 says “However, in situations where a Scout is earning a large number of badges from just one counselor, the unit leader is permitted to place a limit on the number of merit badges that may be earned from one counselor, as long as the same limit applies to all Scouts in the unit.” This can also be used in the case of parents signing off MBs for their sons. All the SM has to do is say – your parent(s) can be your MBC for no more than x MBs.

        I am not personally hung up on not having parents sign off on rank and/or MBs for their son as my experience is that they tend to “add” to the requirements so they are not looked at as giving things away. Results may vary I know.

        • Matt: That is correct, but the limit has to be the same for every MBC. So if the SM says the parent can only do 1 MB, then the Scout would have to find a different MBC for every MB they obtained. That means that they could only obtain 2 from their parents. 1 is probably not realistic a realistic limitation from a particular MBC in most units. I guess Johnny could then get his 4 grandparents to become MBCs.

          I can see setting a limit between 3-6 for parents if there were an issue with Johnny going to their parents for a large number of MBs. I have never seen that as an issue around here. I think I have done 4 for my son & all were non-Eagled required. Since he has well over 100 MBs, he probably has met the intention of the adult interaction on his MBs

        • I don’t like family members signing off on advancement at the Boy Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing Levels. Unfortunately I saw a case where one Scout had most of the 30+ MBs signed off by his mom, dad, and grandfather who were CC/COR, ASM, and SM respectively. Scout could not tell what he did for what MB. When his Eagle Board of Review was conducted, the EBOR members did not believe he earned the number of MBs he was wearing, nor met the requirements for Eagle. The denied the EBOR, and came up with a plan for the Scout. On appeal to national, he was awarded Eagle because ” you do not punish Scouts for the mistakes of the adults,” which caused the entire district advancement committee to resign in protest.

          In extremely rare cases I can see a parent signing off, specifically there are no registered MBCs for the topic. Best example was the Atomic Energy MBC signing off on his son and his friends who took the MB. That counselor was the only registered MBC on that topic in the entire council.

        • Thinking outloud: – –
          With an extended family (grandparents, uncles/aunts. in-laws, step, adult siblings) and family friends, a _creative_ youngster (& parent/s) could get a considerable chunk of the 21 MBs for Eagle, even with a SM attempt to limit the number.
          And, if several such families were to cooperate … they could easily cover 21 MBs, plus.

          [ This presumes that each adult would
          – submit the paper work to become a MB Counselor,
          – have some qualifications for the MB,
          – {not a known child molester…}
          – and become an approved MB Counselor. ]

          So, it is not necessarily that different than parents ‘Akila’ ` signing-off in Cub Scouts — it just takes more people and some family organization!

  12. There’s always this big disconnect between what the BSA puts in their GtA, and what happens in reality.

    What is the difference between a SM being able to appoint anyone he wants to, including an 11 year old, to sign off on first aid requirements for rank advancement, and being able to ask a parent in the Troop to sign off on Cit in the Community MB requirements? Why is the first allowed but not the second?

    What is so sacred about the “approved MBC”? From what I have seen there is ZERO vetting of who knows what before they are approved. “Oh, you have a pulse and are willing, okay, are approved”. Boy, that sure helps the program. As least a SM might put a little more thought into it for the Scouts he is working with. I know I do for my Scouts.

    And of course this is all before you get into the way Council camp MBC’s are handled. Any 16 year old staff member who is available can magically be made into an approved MBC for whatever MB needs instruction that week. No vetting by the Council Advancement Cmte or anything like that. It seriously makes a joke out of the whole “approved MBC” thing.

    I know lots of SM’s who sign off on any MBC they want to and don’t lose a minute of sleep over violating the rules. If a Council can grab a 16 year old CIT at summer camp and have him suddenly a Wilderness Survival MBC then I’m not going to worry if I haven’t filled out the paperwork to get “approved” as a 042 for WSMB. There are some I wouldn’t teach, (Electricity, Nuclear Science, Medicine), but for the vast majority of them I would have zero reservations about signing off on them. If summer camps are giving away 1st Aid MB to 11 year olds after 3-4 days of sitting through 45 minute classes on it, how hard is it for any vaguely experienced SM to teach it? Or should I say teach it right?

    (This is the unintended consequences of the crazy “nothing more, nothing less” mentality that is permeating through the BSA hierarchy).

    In my Troop not only do we not allow requirements to be signed off on the night they are “learned”, we make the Scouts come back the following week and do them from scratch to a different Instructor, who then signs off on the requirement. I know some people would claim “but he completed the requirement when he did it the first week, and by having him wait till the 2nd week is adding to the requirements”, but honestly I don’t care. This is how we make sure that the Scouts actually LEARN stuff, not just get check marks in a book.

    • While I can appreciate your reasoning, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a call from the District Exec about the method of execution.

    • Back in the day, we would not sign until the skills were used at the monthly camp out, and then only after they could do it without prompting. So it could be anywhere from a week to 4 weeks between learning the skill and sign off by the PL.

      You cannot master some skills in a night.

    • While I wish summer camps would do away with the merit badge program altogether except for maybe the climbing and shooting ones I need to say one thing.
      A year old CIT is not the merit badge counselor at summer camp. He or she may be the instructor but there is supposed to be an over 21 year old who is making sure the teaching is happening and then is the one actually signing off.
      Do all camps do it this way? Of course not. I was just pointing out the way it is supposed to be.
      And again while I may agree with you in principle. Isn’t a Scout, let alone a SM or any adult leader, supposed to be modeling living by the Oath and Law? Just because we don’t like something or don’t respect it, doesn’t mean we flaunt it by breaking the rules.
      A scout is supposed to follow the rules and try to change the ones he doesn’t agree with.

    • As Connie pointed out, the Counselor or CIT is not the camp MBC. Each camp MB must have a MBC on staff approved by the council who is at least 18 years old. The Counselors/CITs may be going through the MB requirements but the MBC is the one approving it.

      As for the SM signing off on MB requirements not completed at camp, there is a simple solution–add those MBs to their portfolio. It is very simple to do that here in our council. I just send an email to the professional keeping the list & ask to add “XYZ” to my list. While not required, I usually list my “qualifications” for it. Within 24 hours (usually), I get a response back that it has been added. I’ve looked over the 136 Merit Badges currently offered & think I probably have enough experience to counsel about 100 of them. The only ones that I couldn’t are the ones that require special training for the water (Swimming, Lifesaving, Canoeing, etc) or some highly technical skill that I don’t possess (Surveying, Electronics, & Programming come to mind). I don’t because our council wants our number to be around 6. I think that I am up to 8 now because I have been asked to fill in at MB events where they were short a MBC & someone thought I could do the MB properly.

      I think that being a MBC is an excellent way to get new parents involved in a troop. Have them go through the MBC training and pick 1-3 MBs they want to counsel based on their job, hobbies, or experience. Then, that MBC can sign off on any incompletes from camp when the Scout finishes the requirements.

    • Ted..your posting is sad in so many ways. Will you tell us your council?

      1. No SM would allow an 11 year old to sign off First Aid requirements. For the adult what is so hard about having that adult register properly and fully understand their responsibility is more than just signing a card?

      2. If you have seen zero vetting of MBCs then your council is doing the scouts a disservice and they should be held to task. If you have specific examples, use the form that is an appendix in the GTA to report such actions

      3. Camp MBs are and will continue to be a problem as long as the troops and leaders put up with the substandard way the camp is doing the badges. The appendix also covers this situation. We also put more information into the Group Instruction section in the GTA to cover some of the concerns we heard. If the CAC does not take action, take your business elsewhere where they do it correctly. We go to Camp Rodney in MD and I can tell you in the past 8 years we have been going there I have not seen one case of rubber stamping. In fact when the Cooking MB requirements were changed in 2014, Rodney stopped offering the MB because they could not complete the requirements as written and now offer an Introduction to Cooking MB where all but the actual cooking is covered.

      4. Not allowing requirements to be signed off until they are “learned” could be a good idea but you could also argue that even after the second week if you ask him six weeks later you will find some can’t remember.

      • Matt: I always enjoy our exchanges. As long as the Scout does the requirement as written, nothing more & nothing less, than they have earned the MB. There is nothing in the requirements to retain the knowledge for 7 years or even 1 month. Yes, it would be great if they retain the knowledge but none of us still retain all the knowledge we “learned” in high school or college. We aren’t penalized for losing some of that knowledge over the years.

        The First Aid MB is not meant to make a Scout an EMT or the Surveying MB to make them a certified Surveyor. I know you know all this, but there are still some that think the MB means the Scout can do everything under that MB now even if they earned it 7 years ago. Even the Lifesaving MB doesn’t make a Scout eligible to be a Life Guard for BSA, they have to go through an additional program for that and probably has to take some refresher training every couple of years.

        • Once upon a time, the Boy Scout Handbook required “mastery,” and that means long term retention, not one and done.

          As for nothing being in the requirements, I believe the Guide to Advancement states that the “Badge represents what the Scout CAN DO (emphasis) not what he has done.”

  13. I know of a SM that signed the partials a scout earned at summer camp (that he is not the MB counselor for) and the same kid had his dad ( not a MB counselor at all) sign other MB’s and he is now an Eagle Scout:( — my question is how did they (district/council)not catch that at the Eagle Review?!?!

    • Once the Advancement Report is turned in by the troop, it’s in the records. And in my experience, EBORs only look at the council records, not the blue cards.

      Only time I’ve seen records other than the offiicial council ones was when the council ones were either missing, or screwed up completely. In one case it was the Scout’s BSHB that was used to correct the council records. In the other case, the troop’s secretary had copies of all the Advancement Reports.

      While I have heard of some EBORS requiring blue cards, I’ve never seen it in action.

  14. I encourage SMs to only allow PLs, instructors, and JASMs to sign of on rank requirements up to 1st Class. This requires training these leaders on what merits their putting their initials in a scout’s book. But once told your expectations, this works pretty well.

    Plus, years from now, a man may cherish that handbook filled with is buddies’ signatures.

    • That’s what it was like in my troop growing up too. It was First Aid Skill Award that I was teaching, and I asked my SPL how do I know when to sign off. His answer was, ” When you trust [the Scout] to be able to do first aid skills on you in an emergency while camping, then you know you can sign off.”

      Funny thing is this, one of my buddies I helped teach First Aid Skill Award to DID help me out in a bad situation on a camp out.

      As “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt wrote, “A Scout must master the skills….”

  15. Its been a while since my oldest were in Boy Scouts. They gave it up because they were seeing other boys parents sign off on multiple merit badges, but when I tried to help my boys i was told I could do only one (which they completed bUT never git the badge). They were tired of the double standard. We live in an area where unless you are in the right social circles no one tells you how to find counselors, and we weren’t in those circles. So my boys were in between a rock and a hard place. I’m hoping by the time my younger boys reach Boy Scouts (about 6 years) either there will be more counselors available or Boy Scouts is just gonna have to accept that some boys can’t find counselors because I’m not letting my younger ones go through what my older ones did. If they do the work they deserve the credit and the badge even if a counselor can not be found.

    • The lack of access to counselors’ throughout your district is shameful. Our district strongly encourages folks, if they are signing up to counsel a badge, to not be exclusive to your son’s unit. The list of counselors should be someplace convenient for the boys to access.

      Hopefully the troop’s rules will be clearer when your younger sons join.

  16. All valid points and I get the need for certified MBC’s, in fact I endorse the idea.

    Having said that, there are a number of MB’s mostly academic related that it may not be the easiest to find a MBC for yet the Scout has definitely completed them. I would have no problem with particularly a H/S teacher certifying requirements have been completed i.e. Chemistry; Music; Theater and then going to an MBC (even if it is the SM) and discussing experiments or performances; showing lab notes or video of the production / performance along with a call between the MBC and teacher.

  17. Here are three items from my BSA advancement procedures history archives for your enjoyment.

    1. MBs used to require BORs
    2. First aid requirements must be done by qualified adult experts with an approved Red Cross certificate
    3. Scouts should be prepared at anytime to submit to an exam reviewing the work for which he has previously secured reviews.

    • In the 1920s, earning a merit badge required performing the MB requirements in public before the full adult Council Committee {or for a large Council, member or members with other designated adults from the community). It was a public pass-fail testing. The ‘counselor’
      (if any) was the person who coached the applicant and said that they were ready to be examined. No individual Counselor was signing off for any MB.

      The current more friendly ‘meet at the house and work together’ (or troop level sessions) and MBC ‘blue card’ signature approval system was in-place and being used by WWII.

      Also, it was possible for SMs and other adult Scouters to earn MBs, too. Although, most MB work was by Scout age youth.

    • The unit leader authorizes those who may test and pass the Scout on rank requirements. The Varsity Coach is the unit leader for a Varsity Team. Advancement is supervised not by adult leaders, but by a young man called an advancement program manager, with assistance from a team committee member.

  18. What are your thoughts on the MBC using a subject matter expert to help teach certain steps . For example If a Horsemanship MBC takes scouts to a farm and gets the owner of the horses to teach certain skilsl. Is this approved as long as the actual MBC signs off the steps assuming the steps have adequately covered?

  19. What do you do when a boy gets a partial merit badge at summer camp, then comes back and there are no registered councilor in your entire council?

    • The council advancement committee is responsible for finding someone and registering them. Or the Scout doesn’t complete the badge. Those are the two choices.

  20. I agree with the premise of who can sign off on rank advancement requirements; youth leaders and adult leaders as designated by the SM.

    How do troops report those advancements up to the advancement chair and into the unit’s tracking db? We’ve seen issues such as:

    1) opening TM access to to many people.
    2) the matrix organization that results when mult. people people can sign off – sometimes 12yo youth forget to report things up.
    3) the expectations of new-scout-parents that their children be proactively moved forward by adult leadership – no matter how many times and how many ways we describe the difference between adult led Cub Scouts and boy led Boy Scouts. This statement does not directly impact my reporting mechanism question but it is an additional dimension with which we are faced.
    4) parents rightly expect the approving and reporting be swift and accurate.

    As an adult, I see some sort of form that gets to a single point of contact(advancement chair). Unless advancement gets documented(by youth or adult) and handed to the advancement chair, it may not make it into the db.

    Curious, how do other units report rank advancement requirement approvals by many people back to the advancement chair? Is this covered anywhere in the current GTA?

  21. So, if the Merit Badge counselor is three counties away, would an email exchange involving him, the applicant and the Scoutmaster suffice in the counselor approving the badge? Sometimes the issue is availability and distance; particularly in summer camp and merit badge university settings.

  22. Our scoutmaster is now requiring that if a scout earns an Eagle Scout Required merit badge and is not signed off by one of “his” merit badge counselors, the scout has to get the merit badge card signed off by one of them before he will sign off on it. The cards already are signed off by a MB counselor that are trained and registered with BSA. This is turning off some of the scouts and adults. Any opinions?

Join the conversation