Thursday, July 5, 2012

Scouts Canada – Rebuilding Trust

The worst nightmare of a parent is the fear that a child will fall into the hands of a predator – a skilled manipulator who preys on the vulnerability of precious little ones to satisfy his or her perverted appetites.

A parent’s deepest desire is to see a child develop life skills, strong values, integrity, confidence and the ‘know how’ to face the challenges of life.

When those two fundamentals, the deepest fears and the deepest desires of parents become entwined, the resulting confusion devours trust.

In 1907, founder Lord Baden-Powell, built the Boy Scouts organization on the motto, “Be Prepared.” The idea was to teach boys how to always be in a state of readiness to do the ‘right’thing.

Parents responded out of their deepest desires for their sons. Scout leaders were regarded as pillars of society who would turn boys into fine men.

But as the years passed, whispers began – horifying whispers about boys being molested by trusted Scout leaders – whispers about important men like Saskatchewan’s Fred Miller who, in 1995 was convicted of at least 11 assaults over a period of 36 years.

Was it safe to send a child to Scouts? The questions plagued parents and the entire Scouts Canada organization. Was the reputation of the organization being weighed against the plight of the increasing number of victims?

Aligning itself with its own mantra to “do the right thing,” the Scouts commissioned KPMG Canada to conduct an audit into the way the organization handled allegations of sexual abuse since 1941.

On Monday, June 25th, Scouts Canada released the report to the public. Chief commissioner, Steve Kent, spoke well, saying the review “found no systemic intent to cover up or hide incidents of abuse,” though it did uncover cases where incidents were not handled “with the rigour we would expect.” His transparency and obviously heartfelt apology was appreciated.

Still, it was hard to hear about the review of hundreds of files on leaders who were thrown out over abuse allegations, but were allowed to slink away into the murky silence of confidentiality – and to know that uncounted numbers of victims are living lives that would have been much different, had they never been irreparably damaged by the outworkings of perversion. Thankfully, the Scouts have now handed over all of these names to the police and they are under investigation. Most situations of abuse happened prior to centralization of the organization, before there was any organized accountability.

As tangible proof of its determination to assure the safely of children in its care  and restore the organization to the intent of its founder, Scouts Canada has signed a three-year contract with Winning Kids Inc. to incorporate their Plan to Protect® into the Scouts’ revised  guidelines. Plan to Protect® is the Canadian STANDARD for child protection and abuse prevention. It will require every Scout leader to willingly submit to the policies, screening process and the time required to be trained – a sure way to rebuild trust.

Melodie Bissell, CEO of Winning Kids Inc. was with Steve Kent in Ottawa for the press conference. In her press release, Melodie welcomed Scouts Canada to the WKI roster of “Going the Distance” members. She said, “The purpose of our partnership is to go the distance with Scouts Canada as they implement their revised child and youth safety policies and protocols.  We will walk alongside of them and assist them with their implementation and training needs.”
Furthering her contention that “It takes a community to protect a child,” Melodie addressed parents, saying, “Parents, it is your responsibility to monitor the whereabouts of your children and say ‘no,’ when a trusted leader wants to be alone with your children. Don’t allow anyone to be in a position of trust with your children unless you know they will avoid isolation, and be accountable for their actions and whereabouts. The protection of our children is a shared responsibility. Listen to your intuition, and be willing to be whistle blowers.”

To the question, ‘Is it not too little too late?’ Melodie continues to remind people that, “It is never too late, for there is always another child to protect, another predator to guard against. It may be too late for those that suffered abuse in the past, for we can’t go back and undo the pain from yesterday, but we can learn from it. Hopefully for the survivors, they will know their tears and prayers have not gone unnoticed or unanswered. We will redeem their pain and invest in the protection of children and youth moving forward. As a community we all have to consider what is our role moving forward to protect children and youth.  We all need a plan to protect!”

© Diane Roblin-Lee, June 25, 2012

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