Recent revelations about the Boy Scouts of America’s decades-old confidential “ineligible volunteer files” raise questions about the quality of youth protection today, and has led to an increase in calls for better child protection plans in the youth sector.
“The more barriers you put up … the harder you make it for the predators,” said Mike Gurtler, a partner at Safe-Wise Consulting in Bar Harbor, Maine. While scouting has expanded its safety measures recently by requiring background screening for all volunteers and staff, the structure is far from perfect.
Nonetheless, interviews with child-protection experts and reviews of websites show the Boy Scouts on par with many other national youth-service and youth-sports organizations in screening adult participants and setting standards for interactions with kids. Some groups, such as the Amateur Athletic Union, have a centralized system for background checks and national standards for interaction between coaches and youth athletes. Others, such as the YMCA, the Girl Scouts of America and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, let regional councils or local affiliates determine screening requirements, according to youth protection documents and interviews.
It’s certainly worth remembering, however, that “research suggests no more than 20 percent of pedophiles are reported to authorities”. While that doesn’t negate the need for criminal background checks, it emphasizes that such a check on its own is simply not enough. Any organization, specifically those that work with children, require a thorough background screening process for all employees and volunteers.
Gurtler said he suspects that, with increased vigilance in major youth nonprofits, molestation is more likely “in the smaller youth organizations and sports groups that don’t have those protections … fully in place. Adult predators will find those places.” The solution is to ensure these groups do everything possible to have a background check process in place, without any gaps. Pre-employment screening companies are one solution to ensure you don’t miss any important screening opportunities.