April Is Youth Protection Month
by Bill Sloan
For the second straight year, the BSA urges units to conduct youth protection programs in April and share Scouting's outstanding resourcesincluding a new comic book for Cub Scout-age youthwith the community at large.
The Boy Scouts of America has been involved in teaching safety to adults and youth since its beginning. Since the mid-1980s the Youth Protection program has been an integral part of our emphasis on safety.
The primary tenets of the BSA's Youth Protection program include reference checks on new volunteer leaders; policies such as "two-deep" leadership, no hazing or initiations, and "no one-on-one" (a leader and a youth); and a heavy emphasis on training of adults and youth in the youth protection area.
BSA's efforts at youth protection are a reflection of society's greater efforts on the prevention of child abuse. For several years, the month of April has been designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Even though the BSA's Youth Protection program is a year-round program, last year BSA joined the effort emphasizing Child Abuse Prevention Month with its own emphasis in April as Youth Protection Month.
"Our first observance of National Youth Protection Month last spring was quite successful," says Brad Farmer, recent national director of Cub Scouting and now Scout executive of Chief Seattle Council, Seattle, Wash. "But there's still more work to be done."
The campaign's major goals are twofold, Farmer explains. Its first objective is to get leaders of every pack, troop, and crew in every council trained in youth protection and actively involved in conducting youth protection programs. The second is to emphasize and expand Scouting's role as a leading resource of child safety information and training for the community at large.
Award-winning BSA videos
BSA's Youth Protection program was developed with the help of leading experts and designed to combat a societal problem of child abuse. Over the years, BSA has done training in several of the forms of abuse: physical abuse, verbal abuse, and sexual abuse. Youth Protection has also tackled areas such as Internet safety and, for older teens, peer harassment and date rape. It is probably best known for its award-winning BSA-produced videos; cornerstones of the BSA youth protection initiative, they are helping to curb this toll.
One of these, titled "A Time to Tell" (BSA No. AV-09V004) and aimed at 11-to-14-year-old boys, has helped countless Boy Scouts and other youth in this age-group learn to recognize abusive behavior and take steps to prevent it. Another, called "Personal Safety Awareness" (No. AV-09V027), was produced in 1999 for 14-to-20-year-old youth; it covers such topics as Internet safety, stalking, sexual harassment, and acquaintance rape.
"Both of these videos have proved extremely valuable," Farmer says. "They've alerted thousands of young people, parents, and Scout leaders to some widespread problems in our society and provided solid information on what can be done to combat these problems."
The videos are available at many local Scout council service centers and may also be ordered from the BSA Supply Division National Distribution Center, P.O. Box 65989, Charlotte, NC 28265-0989, (800) 323-0732.
Focus on bullies
The main theme of this year's National Youth Protection Month is "How to Avoid Being Bullied." The campaign incorporates material from leading physicians, psychologists, and behavioral experts and explains how not to be a bully as well as how to prevent and protect against bullying, according to Farmer. (See the Family Talk column on bullying.)
An important resource available for the first time during the 2002 campaign is a newly created comic book for Cub Scouts and other youngsters in the 7-to-10-year-old age-group. The booklet, Power Pack Pals (No. 33980), dramatizes real-life situations in which youth protection tactics are needed and successfully used.
"The comic book deals with bullies and bullying," Farmer says. "It contains admonitions to parents as well as messages directed at kids themselves. We feel a comic book is another way for reaching younger children because it can convey valuable information in an entertaining, nonthreatening way."
The comic books are being distributed through local Scout council service centers.
A quality council program
To be most effective, Farmer emphasizes, youth protection efforts must be implemented through well organized and ongoing programs at the council level.
In New Jersey's Patriots' Path Council, for example, more than 200 volunteer Scouters have been recruited as facilitators to teach courses in youth protection on a year-round basis.
"We make youth protection a top priority 365 days a year," says council Scout Executive Dennis Kohl. "Last April, we kicked off our first Youth Protection Month observance with a major symposium and invited other nonprofit agencies in the community to join in. We brought in an F.B.I. agent and did a whole program on Internet safety, which is one of the fastest-growing areas of concern about our youth. And we'll be doing this same sort of thing this April."
The council has also formulated and produced its own comprehensive youth protection training packetsone specifically designed for youth and one for adultswhich cover a broad spectrum of potential dangers to young people. In addition, it has created special patches as recognition for youth and volunteer leaders who complete certain levels of training.
On average, the council offers four two-hour training sessions per month, Kohl says.
"To date, out of 7,000 volunteer leaders in our council, 80 percent have completed their essential youth protection courses," he notes.
"At first, most of our emphasis was on preventing sexual abuse," Kohl says, "but we've steadily expanded the scope of our training into other areas, such as physical and verbal abuse and behavioral issues like bullying. Our leaders are happy to see these things included, because these are problems they have to deal with on a regular basis."
Kohl also has high praise for the two videos produced by the BSA's national office. "The Boy Scout video gets very good reception, and we've shown it a lot," he says. "And the Venturing video is outstanding. We make a point of showing it to our older Boy Scouts as well as to our Venturers."
Adds Farmer: "With our growing population and the increasing complexities of our shrinking world, providing adequate protection for vulnerable young people is a bigger and more complex job than ever. But it's a job the BSA is ideally suited to handle, and we urge everyone in Scouting to get actively involved in this effortnot just during April but throughout the year."
Bill Sloan is a Scouting magazine contributing editor.
March-April 2002 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2002 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.