Since the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was founded in 1910, and it has been an iconic part of American history. Over 110 million Americans have gone through BSA programs, making it one of the biggest youth organizations ever in the US.
The main idea is behind BSA is to build character, learn responsibility, and develop self-reliance through various outdoor activities and educational programs.
However, the organization has experienced a massive setback in previous years as some people have come forward with sexual abuse allegations against senior members of the BSA. So, the main question for all parents is – is it safe to join Boy Scouts?
The Benefits of Joining Boy Scouts
Joining BSA can be a unique adventure full of fun. Earning merits and working towards that Eagle Scout badge can help kids become more moral, dependent, obedient, kind, helpful, friendly, brave, and self-reliant.
The goal of BSA is to let youth participate in outdoor activities that will help them face difficult situations under supervision and prepare them for a life where they will be able to use those scouting lessons. BSA teaches children important skills, ethical values, and how to set and achieve goals.
Young scouts will get to try new things and learn about science and nature. Outdoor activities also keep them from screens, and we all know how hard that is nowadays, as kids spend so much time playing video games, using smartphones, tablets, and computers, and watching TV.
Becoming a scout helps kids develop their social skills while spending more time with friends and family. It helps them grow bonds as they learn and have fun, which is an important part of childhood.
There are different BSA troops with various events, so children can truly find new passions through many activities.
For a many years, BSA didn’t allow female, gay, or atheist members to participate in their programs. However, those rules were lifted in the previous years, and the organization now welcomes all children and adolescents.
The most troubling discoveries exposed repeating child abuse in the 70s and 80s in the organization by adult volunteers. After a high-profile court case, authorities ordered the organization to reveal secret files detailing 1200 sexual abuse cases from the past.
It turned out that several people have managed to slip through BSA’s line of defense against convicted sexual predators by falsifying documentation, using clerical errors, or avoiding background checks during the registration process.
After hundreds of people came out in 2019 claiming sexual abuse and pursuing legal actions, the organization faced internal turmoil and public backlash. Membership had been declining for years, the coronavirus pandemic was around the corner, and these additional lawsuits only made the matter worse. It all culminated as the organization filed for bankruptcy in the February of 2020.
By November 16th, over 92,000 people have filed sex abuse claims against BSA, demanding compensation for damages from the organization. The organization has issued a statement highlighting how devastated they are to find that so many people have been affected by volunteers and adult supervising staff. They praised the bravery of all victims for coming forward.
Boy Scout sexual abuse lawsuits have forced the organization to increase security measures in an attempt to ensure child safety and well-being. It’s still unclear what the future for BSA is, and whether it will continue to operate under a different name after the lawsuit is resolved and the settlement is paid out.
BSA Policies to Prevent Child Abuse
Over the years, BSA has created many policies to increase child safety. For instance, since the 1980s, all outings require two adults to participate in activities, whether they are registered boy scout leaders or parents. Adults are now required to never engage in one-on-one interactions with children, which relates to face-to-face, online, or text exchanges.
Since 2008, all adult members also undergo hard criminal background checks, and they must promptly report all suspicion or allegations of sexual abuse to authorities.
In addition, all volunteers must participate in youth protection training every two years. This program helps adults learn how to spot abuse and neglect and take steps to prevent it.
BSA also created age-appropriate materials that are designed to help kids distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate contact. These animated lessons teach kids how to spot abusive behaviors, and this part of the education will additionally minimize safety risks for children.
However, despite all of this, the number of people who have experienced sexual abuse in Boy Scouts is staggering. There is a stigma of coming forward for both men and women, but it seems like the #MeToo movement and sex abuse claims against the Catholic Church have impacted many boy scouts to come forward and take legal action.
Should Your Child Join a Local Troop?
While many people have fond memories of scouting trips, not everybody has had the same luck. Boy Scouts can be a significant part of your kid’s childhood, but there are things you need to check first. So, talk to your child, make sure they want to join Boy Scouts and get involved to ensure their safety.
Some people push their kids to join BSA, as they have a scouting past, but the scouting experience should be voluntary and fun, and forcing your kid to partake against their will isn’t the best approach.
If your child is interested, many local troops with great leaders stand for everything BSA should be about. There, your kid can experience nature, go camping, make new friends, and learn a lot about themselves and the world around them.
Before letting your child become a member, you should talk to the leaders of your local troop and see what they do to ensure child safety. You can also speak to parents of other existing members and learn about their experiences.
Once you check all the safety boxes and your child is ready to embark on their scouting journey, you can join along. BSA encourages parents to take an active role and share some quality family time. That way, your kid can get the best of both worlds, while you can have peace of mind knowing they are safe at all times.