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Parent Signatures: Every Requirement is There for a Reason

Occasionally a troop may find itself facing a question about how to handle a Youth Protection parent/guardian sign-off requirement when Scout comes from single-parent family and troop seldom, if ever, sees the parent. However, the parent or legal guardian are the only ones who may agree to and sign off on this requirement and the Youth Membership Application.

Everyone agrees that Scouting will be good for the youth, but who can do what to make that happen? Is it the responsibility of the Scouters in the troop to talk with the parent or guardian, or is it solely that of the boy himself? To answer these questions, it is best to start by reviewing the situation, while always keeping in mind that we are not authorized to change any advancement requirements.

First, what is advancement? Advancement is a tool we use to fulfill our mission in Scouting. It is one of the methods we use to foster the personal growth and safety of our Scout. So why do we have Scout requirement #6. What are we trying to accomplish? The purpose is twofold:

  1. To be sure the Scout’s parent or guardian is aware of what we are trying to do to protect the Scout; and
  2. To be sure the Scout is protected from online dangers.

Because in the situation described above, there is an adult in the troop—one who may even have become an Assistant Scoutmaster—who already is working with the Scout, the troop might be tempted to have him or her complete requirement #6 with the Scout. However, while this would ensure the Scout gains an appreciation of the principles of Youth Protection, this does not fulfill the real purposes stated above—making sure the parent or guardian appreciates what Scouting is doing to keep his or her boy safe, and understands that, in the case of online matters, “safety begins at home” with the parent or guardian. Therefore, the Scout’s parent or guardian needs to be a cooperating participant in the BSA Youth Protection program. If the unit is not in contact with the parent or guardian of a new Scout or they are not coming to meetings, an alternative solution must be found to correct that situation.

A good place to start would be for the Scoutmaster to arrange a meeting with the parent or guardian, prefer-ably in the home. This meeting should be as informal as possible, and should not be treated as something un-usual because most units hold a new parents’ orientation to get to know the parents or guardians. The unit is simply reaching out to every parent or guardian who could not attend that orientation for some reason. An invitation to meet could say something like, “We’ve asked for this meeting to get to know you and to let you get to know us. While we’re here, we can help you and your son with Scout requirement #6.” This is a meeting that the Scoutmaster should not delegate.

It is important that the unit leadership establish a relationship with the parents or guardians of their Scouts before any problems develop. Hopefully, there will be none and the years that this young man will be involved with the troop will be positive ones for him and for his whole family. If we proceed in this way, we’ll be sure to keep our Scout in Scouting longer, giving us a better chance to influence his character. Now isn’t that what we’re all about?

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