In 2015, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline received 4.4 million reports of child sexual abuse.
That’s a fact not meant to scare you but to clarify what we — the Boy Scouts of America and other youth-serving organizations — are up against.
The next step in that ongoing fight is the 2016 National Youth Protection Symposium, set for Oct. 12 to 14, 2016, in Alexandria, Va. It’s where the BSA and other youth-serving organizations will learn from leading experts in the field of child sexual abuse.
Please note: This is a national symposium event and not the required online Youth Protection Training. The registration fee for this event is $450.
By attending the symposium, you’ll acquire tools for your unit and council in the fight against abuse. If you can’t attend, take comfort in the fact that the BSA and others are demonstrating remarkable commitment in this fight.
This is the third time the BSA has hosted this symposium, which brings together experts from youth-serving organizations, schools, youth athletic organizations and faith communities. Those leaders compare notes on what they’ve learned while acquiring the latest intel from top experts in the field of abuse prevention. The strength-in-numbers approach makes sure each group leaves with stronger practices, training programs, policies and initiatives.
The presenters include a who’s who in the field of abuse prevention. Like Joye E. Frost, director of the Office for Victims of Crime who brings almost 40 years of experience in the field of victim assistance. She’ll open the 2016 National Youth Protection Symposium.
The full slate of speakers will be announced later, but two others who have been announced give you a good idea of the caliber of discussion that will take place in October:
- Dr. Barbara Bonner, director of the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. She’ll make a presentation called “What YSOs [Youth-Serving Organizations] Need to Know About Youth Exhibiting Questionable Behavior.”
- Dr. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center. He’s been studying these issues since 1977 and has written 12 books on the subject. His presentation: “Recent Developments in Thinking and Research About Protecting Children in Youth-Serving Organizations.”
The 2013 symposium
I attended the 2013 National Youth Protection Symposium and filed this report.
That year, Michael Johnson, Youth Protection director of the BSA, organized 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. They shared with — and learned from — the best and brightest nationally recognized child protection experts.
“Let’s put together a group of folks that will look to the future,” Johnson told the group. “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.”
Rather than feeling powerless in the effort to keep our youth safe from abuse, I left feeling empowered. There’s evil out there, but it can be overcome:
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.
Register for the 2016 National Youth Protection Symposium here.