In the Sixth Edition of the 1972 Scoutmaster’s Handbook, page 79, there is a section titled “Where to Counsel”. Scoutmasters are identified as coaches, counselors, and friends. The where and how to counsel were described. “Every Scout in the Troop should understand that you counsel often with individuals. Every Scout should be made to respect your need to deal with the individual boy privately.”
Scouting’s culture of protection has changed so much that the quote from 1972 causes a strong sense of horror in Scouters. It is not the idea of working with Scouts, but the individual and “private” problem. Misunderstandings, like in the 1972 handbook, created an environment for abuse to happen. These perceptions were a part of our collective culture during the time. Two years later, in 1974, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) passed. A first in our country shifting to protect children.
Change is an ongoing process for Scouting. BSA’s change to two deep leadership was critical. Youth Protection Training continues to improve. Before an applicant can join or volunteer with Scouting, the BSA verifies that he or she is not included in their database of individuals who have been prohibited from participation. The Volunteer Screening Database is in place to prevent the registration of individuals who do not meet the BSA’s standards due to known or suspected abuse or misconduct within or outside of the organization. This database is not available to charter partners. “Suspected abuse or misconduct” does not show up on a background check. Criminals or potential criminals will not put references on their applications identifying their wrong behavior. A charter can do due diligence and still be fooled.
Supporters of Scouting must depend upon the professional organization that determines membership and the rules of Youth Protection. I cannot tell you how many small rules, like water guns and water balloons, have surprised well-meaning Scouters. BSA has professionals for a reason. They are experts in the field who keep everyone safe. The rules are followed because BSA is trusted by those who have learned and is well ahead of the curve.
Change makes sense. The Scoutmaster Handbook changed. Change to the training and tracking protects youth, adults, and organizations. Is it time to realize we need to make small changes that will keep Scouting stronger and safer for the future?
It just makes sense now.
Restructuring does not mean doing the same old thing. Let us keep Scouting strong for generations together. Let us lead the change for a better future.