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Ideas - What Can Prevent Abuse in BSA


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Ok .. .that Chapter 11 topic drifts a lot, so I thought one area I struggle with is how we can actually reduce abuse in BSA (and youth organizations).  

I went to websites of BSA, GSUSA, Trail LIfe, 4H, Boys and Girls Club, AYSO and the BSA is the ONLY organization that talks about Youth Protection on their main page.  I volunteer for sports teams, GSUSA and BSA ... BSA is the only one that required me to sit through 2 hours of training.  

These are not complaints, they are just brief comparisons as I am attempting to see what is out there that BSA is not doing.  

My one thought on how to improve safety comes from industry.  In particular, the automotive industry.  Over the last decades, cars have become more safe.  There is no debate ... a crash that would have killed you 20+ years ago may leave you with minor injuries today.  So, how did they do this?  Was it lawsuits ... somewhat.  Was it standards ... a bit.  Was it legislation ... not so much.  

The number one reason cars are more safe today, is the IIHS. The IIHS is funded by insurance companies who have to pay claims when their drivers are hurt/injured.  The IIHS safety ratings help drive insurance rates of cars ... but more than that ... they are public data that tells consumers which cars are safer.

Do we need a IIHS for youth organizations?  Essentially, an independent body of experts that can review the training, procedures, etc. for all major youth organizations that buy insurance and rate their safety level and have that publicly available.  

To be clear, each youth organization is not the same.  Having a STEM team work on computer code is less dangerous than having a patrol go for a hike in a mountain range.  So, it would be good to provide categories just like IIHS does. Think truck, sport car, van, SUV vs Outdoor/scouting, sports teams, STEM.

I think, over time, this could improve safety protocols across all youth organizations.  Just a thought on something that worked in another industry.

 

 

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Wherever there are adults that can charm insecure youth, which includes all those places you mention above, there is abuse. That mindset is one ingredient to reduce abuse. Just like car safe

To me, all of these should be reported.  Reporting shouldn't be reserved for actual crimes, it should be any violation.  In EHS, we are expected to report "near misses".  Those are then used to improv

I actually agree with you that in the BSA today, the CO is the organization responsible for the unit and they should be vetting leaders.  They should be interviewing them, ensuring they are trained, e

Thanks for the topic. I think it's good to focus outside the clutter of the main thread. Have you discussed this with anyone in the organization or outside? It's a very intriguing idea. I also think improving YPT, specifically, will require adding survivors to some element of the training and education. No one can speak to it like we can. They would have to be selected carefully and the context of their input thoughtfully crafted, but it would be powerful imho.  

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For starters, if our Leaders actually followed YPT we would be in a much better position.  

Youth protection requires two deep leadership.  I've seen Eagle car washes and project days with NO adult leadership. Our District is aware but they don't say anything. 

No one on one contact with Scouts.  I've seen leaders give Scouts rides home in their car ALONE.  

Leaders are not supposed to drink alcohol on trips.  They do, and in fact I know a Leader with a DWI who still drinks on camping trips.

All written communication from a Scout should have another adult copied.  A lot of our adult leaders say 'Don't worry about it'.  

The 72 hour rule for registration is a good one and in fact I always required that if you're going to spend a lot of time with our Scouts than you MUST register and get a background check.  My requirement was NOT well received by some adult leaders and was waved off with 'well why don't you just register EVERYONE?!"

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I see problems with YPT training and I am unsure how to solve it.

1) Its not taken seriously.  Too many adults see it as something they have to do, and after they do it there are too many things they just disregard.

2) Certification of Completion is meaningless.  There is nothing in place to prevent a person just sitting there and clicking next while doing something else and answering a couple of questions at the end.  Even more problematic... there is nothing in place to make sure the person on the certificate is the person that actually took the training.

 

So.  How do you make sure the people that are supposed to take the training are really the ones that take the training?  

        How do you make sure the person who completed the training is actually applying what they are supposed to have learned?

        

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2 minutes ago, FaithfulScouter said:

For starters, if our Leaders actually followed YPT we would be in a much better position.  

Youth protection requires two deep leadership.  I've seen Eagle car washes and project days with NO adult leadership. Our District is aware but they don't say anything. 

No one on one contact with Scouts.  I've seen leaders give Scouts rides home in their car ALONE.  

Leaders are not supposed to drink alcohol on trips.  They do, and in fact I know a Leader with a DWI who still drinks on camping trips.

All written communication from a Scout should have another adult copied.  A lot of our adult leaders say 'Don't worry about it'.  

The 72 hour rule for registration is a good one and in fact I always required that if you're going to spend a lot of time with our Scouts than you MUST register and get a background check.  My requirement was NOT well received by some adult leaders and was waved off with 'well why don't you just register EVERYONE?!"

To me, all of these should be reported.  Reporting shouldn't be reserved for actual crimes, it should be any violation.  In EHS, we are expected to report "near misses".  Those are then used to improve training & processes.

The written communications is a great one.  So many times, I receive an email from a scout directly to me with no one on the CC.  I immediately respond to that scout + parent + leader and remind them to never email me without an adult.  We use Troop Track as it automatically includes parents on all emails (so this only happens when they email me from their personal account).

I would be fine if BSA says ... please, go ahead and report every email.  It seems crazy, but perhaps if that level of reporting is encouraged, these "minor" issues could identify a systemic breakdown.  

In my organization, every call to service is considered a complaint.  We have a full time team that looks at every complaint to determine hazard (non, minor, serious, critical, etc.).  Every complaint that is serious is then investigated by engineering, QA and risk management who then determine root cause, corrective actions (if required) and if our overall system is still at an acceptable risk.  These teams process hundreds of thousands of complaints a year.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but more reported violations of YPT may actually result in a safer organization.  

https://www.ehstoday.com/safety/article/21915434/study-encouraging-incident-reporting-leads-to-improved-safety-culture

https://www.safeopedia.com/help-me-help-you-10-ways-to-get-employees-to-file-incident-and-near-miss-reports/2/6079

 

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In our spring recruiting drive, I had a number of conversations with prospective parents who wanted to understand why their son would be safe in our Troop.  

My response was strict adherence to our rules.  Expectations of rigid adherence have to start at the top, with no exceptions allowed.  There is simply no reason for an adult to ever be alone with a scout.  Period.  In 4 years, I have only experienced one instance in which was an issue, in which a mom/adult leader, in response a new scout asking to be shown to a water fountain on a floor above our meeting room, was going to escort him to the second floor.  After a brief discussion, she immediately realized the issue, and asked another scout to escort the new scout.  Bottom line, there are no innocuous exceptions to the rule.

We also require that at least one parent of an active scout take YPT training, so they have a clear understanding of our rules and will be in a better position to identify any deviation from them.  It amazed me how long it took to get 100% compliance with this add on requirement, given the limited duration of online YPT training and the expectation that a parent would go out of their way to do whatever they can to understand the expectations and safety rules of the program.  

My biggest YPT issue, as scoutmaster and a MB counselor, are scouts who email me without including a parent or another adult leader.  I cc a parent in response and remind them a parent or another adult leader must be cc'd on any communications.   Yet, it keeps happening, time and time again.  

Finally, when parents express trepidation, I encourage them to come to our meetings or go on the campout to see the program.  

These are not easy conversations, but the questions being asked are justified given the history and the current national focus on a shameful history and lack of oversight.   

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I don't have any specific ideas at this point.  I do think that similar to the various safety agencies there should be specific published reviews that show where things went wrong.  We have a fair number of rules in place, and while none of them are unimportant surely some of them are much more critical than others.

Looking at Faithful Scouters examples, all are good rules, but how critical are they?

Eagle projects with no adults.  Easy to argue that adults make the activity safer, but how directly would an Eagle project run by scouts lead to the abuse of a scout by an adult?  

Scout leader giving a scout a ride home alone, that's an easier line to see so maybe we should really emphasize how bad that is.

Background checks, a necessary and good idea, but how many already convicted child molesters do you think those catch?

We should have access to actual incidents with detailed professional analysis of not just what went wrong but why something went wrong.  What were the critical decision points along the way where either a poor decision, a bad decision, or a non decision allowed something terrible to happen.

 

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Since it's been mentioned twice, my understanding of the rule about texts and emails is that any communication from an adult to a scot must include another adult. Although it's good practice for scouts to also include another adult in their communications, it's not clear that a scout has violated YPT if they send an email or text to just one adult, it's the response that must include a second adult.  The burden is on us not them.

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I have far too many points, because the problem is far bigger than the BSA. The bitter truth, Americans, is no matter where you go, there you are. Deconstruct every organization that one or two predators may infiltrate, and thousands will flourish given this nation's nuclear family structure. The manuals on how to do this are encoded in some of the vilest American literature and pop culture. Read that literature, find the family beleaguered by life who "needs a friend", whose kids aren't doing much with others, infiltrate. There is no patriarch or matriarch monitoring whose spending too much time with whom across multiple families in the tribe. Fewer families are part of organized groups where underprivileged parents can learn "the signs." We are in a culture where kids grow up isolated and the ones who should urgently "call that number" are terrified to because the media the watch terrifies and isolates them. Inside or outside of the BSA, if anyone tries to address this with adult solutions in adult forums, be it training or courtrooms, they will fail.

The only solution that I can think of is what Mamma did for me. I can remember it vividly. It was during a bath time ... well before puberty. She explained ...

  • Nobody had a right to handle my genitals.
  • There are people who will assume that right.
  • Be they friends, family, or priests, oppose them with all the force that you have.
  • There are good people in the world. Find them. Report to them. Repeat.

Later lessons were to not gawk at someone else's spouse, if she ain't your wife she ain't your spouse, treat sex like a Christmas present, stand up to bullies, be kind to the oppressed,  don't be the oppressor, etc ... I more or less remembered those. But that first one was clear.

I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only kid in the neighborhood who got that first lecture. Someone must have tipped off the moms in our community about something.

We can debate the specifics of her approach, but her bottom line: adults don't stop abuse, the abused do. The underlying philosophy was to build resilience in the kids because there is no time-cop roaming the streets to take out abusers before they commit their first act.

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Before we get too far, I should mention that there's already a locked thread and another unlocked thread about substantially the same question.

I like the idea of random spot-checks, and outside audits, for YPT compliance and other policies. Some of it could be a Commissioner/DE thing, but supplement it with an additional level of checks from something totally outside BSA. The "outside" part could be some sort of investigative agency, or it could be (if they'd agree to it) employees or volunteers of GSUSA, or victims vetted by the TCC/FCR.

Such a spot-check visit should be actually random... much like when I worked at a trucking company, and we were subject to random drug checks.  The person doing the check shouldn't know until the week of the visit which troop he or she will be visiting; maybe roll dice to generate the lucky unit-number.  The visitor should show up at a meeting unannounced, based on information posted in "Be a Scout", ScoutBook, and other public sources. If there is no meeting, the first question should be "why" and "how were parents and Scouts supposed to know this?"

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24 minutes ago, qwazse said:

I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only kid in the neighborhood who got that first lecture. Someone must have tipped off the moms in our community about something.

 

Great post, but this one line sticks to me as the major problem. This generation does not agree as a community of moral behavior. Nobody in our neighborhood would dare bring up sexuality, much less abuses, because political correctness has confuse common sense morality. My neighbor who has two young boys quit talking to us when they found we voted for other guy in the presidential election. The neighbors across the street are nice folks as far as we can tell, but they obviously live a different lifestyle, and keep to themselves. There is no doubt to me that young folks today are confused about basic moral principles. The same principles communities hold each other accountable not that long ago. The media is so hypocritical on moral behavior that few people could feel safe in discussing their beliefs. It takes a strong person to admit to the religious principles..

Barry

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15 minutes ago, DavidLeeLambert said:

Before we get too far, I should mention that there's already a locked thread and another unlocked thread about substantially the same question.

I was hoping this one can be specific on specific recommendations that could improve safety.  Those others were more about society.  I'm really curious, in today's (and tomorrow's) society what changes can we make to improve safety.  There will be specific changes as part of the Chapter 11 settlement.  If we are to have scouting, we need scouting to work safely in the society we have today.  What does that look like?

 

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24 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

I was hoping this one can be specific on specific recommendations that could improve safety.  Those others were more about society.  I'm really curious, in today's (and tomorrow's) society what changes can we make to improve safety.  There will be specific changes as part of the Chapter 11 settlement.  If we are to have scouting, we need scouting to work safely in the society we have today.  What does that look like?

 

Can it get safer than YP at the unit level? Maybe the changes should be toward reactions to abuse reports. Isn't that what the real complaint is?

Barry

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1 minute ago, Eagledad said:

Can it get safer than YP at the unit level? Maybe the changes should be toward reactions to abuse reports. Isn't that what the real complaint is?

 

Nearly all of the ideas I can think of is at a higher level (in terms of reporting, etc.).  If a unit strictly follows today's YP, I cannot think of any real changes that wouldn't simply kill most youth organizations.  @qwazse brought up interesting points but I'm not sure how we could change unit level YP policies to address it.

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