An update from the BSA’s Youth Protection executive for National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so it seems like the perfect time to talk with the BSA’s Youth Protection executive to get an update on the latest topics related to youth protection, both within and outside of the BSA.

“Our goal and mission is to take in all the information from law enforcement, from academia, from other youth-serving organizations, and distill it and then share it in a way so that it works across the BSA at every level, all the way to the unit,” says Glen Pounder, who was hired last year to lead the BSA’s youth protection efforts. “The idea being that at the unit level, they can just employ the things that we’ve learned.”

One of Pounder’s top priorities since joining the BSA has been to strengthen the organization’s relationships with other youth-serving organizations. While the BSA’s goal has always been to be a leader in youth protection, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn more about what works and what doesn’t work from others.

“We don’t want to be seen to be marking our own homework,” Pounder says, “so we welcome the input of external organizations.”

Here are a few other topics we touched on during our conversation …

On working with the new Youth Protection Committee …

The BSA’s newly formed Youth Protection Committee is a team of industry experts, representatives from the BSA and adult survivors of child sexual abuse within Scouting.

“The committee has been crucial to helping us carry on this journey,” Pounder says. “Those survivors feel like they have a great deal of responsibility to make sure they help us on this journey.”

Among the committee’s many tasks: Developing a “pathway to Eagle Scout” program for Scouts whose journey to Eagle was stopped by abuse, and establishing “places of remembrance” sites at the BSA’s national high-adventure bases.

“But over and above that, they’re really helpful to the BSA, because as we’re looking at policies and we’re thinking about changes, we run all of those by that committee,” Pounder says.

BSA file photo

On what else the BSA is doing to keep kids safe …

  • Last fall, the BSA updated Scouting’s Barriers to Abuse to add a policy that requires all adults staying overnight in connection with a Scouting activity to be registered as an adult volunteer or an adult program participant. Click here to learn why this is important.
  • Click here for a refresher on the difference between ‘two-deep leadership’ and ‘no one-on-one contact.’
  • Click here for information on what adults need to know when driving youth to and from events.
  • All persons participating in Scouting programs are mandated reporters of child abuse. This reporting duty cannot be delegated to any other person. Reports must be made to local law enforcement and child protective services. State law may require additional reporting.

On the ever-growing challenge of helping children use technology safely …

“We’re not here to tell anyone how to parent,” Pounder says. “There are two different major ways of looking at this.

“One is to have open conversations with your with your kids and let them know, ‘Look, you know you have to give me all the passwords and you know that at any time I can look at your phone.’ And that’s a very age-appropriate thing.

“The other way of looking at it is to install some commercially available software, and effectively what you’re doing is putting spyware on the child’s device that will inform the parent if there’s something dangerous going on.”

Teenagers, of course, are clever, and one trend Pounder says he’s noticed is the “burner” phone — a second phone that a child uses that the parent doesn’t even know about.

There’s only so much a parent can do, which brings us to the final and probably most important topic regarding youth safety …

On establishing trust with your children …

There are ways to communicate with your child so they know that if they ever make a mistake — trusting the wrong person, sending inappropriate photos, getting involved in a dangerous situation — that they can come to you, and that you will help them find a solution.

This is a conversation you can have with your child that may only last a few minutes and may be most effective if it seems to occur naturally and not, say, during an interrogation-type setting when you’re sitting across a table from each other.

“When you’re in the car and should be looking at the road and not at your kid … that’s a great time for them when they can hear the information,” Pounder says. “It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but now and again, it’s helpful if they hear their parents say, ‘Oh, by the way, you know, we’ve got your back.’

“They just need to know that Mom and Dad or their guardian has their back, and if something goes wrong, they’ll figure it out together.”

About Aaron Derr 448 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.