Background And Reference Checks: Firewalls To Protect Children

Police arrested a South Carolina Boy Scout leader as part of an operation that targeted underage sex crimes.

According to deputies, they arrested 38 people in an online sex operation. Among those arrested were alleged adult prostitutes, child predators, and buyers of commercial sex. The sheriff said that during the sting operation, expert law enforcement officers chatted online with the suspects and posed as underage teens.

At a news conference, the sheriff revealed that one of those arrested was a Boy Scout leader. The 34-year-old man was taken into custody on a charge of criminal solicitation of a minor. According to his arrest warrant, he "tried to convince someone he believed to be a 14-year-old into performing sex acts."

The Boy Scouts Council in South Carolina notified the accused of his removal from scouting on the same day as his arrest. The Boy Scouts of America has also issued a statement saying that the safety of its youth members is the organization's top priority. The group stated further that all adult leaders and staff undergo a thorough screening process that includes youth protection training and "prompt mandatory reporting of allegation or suspicion of abuse." Jenna Kurzyna "SC Boy Scout Leader Arrested in Sex Sting Operation" (Jul. 27, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

The Boy Scouts of America, just like many organizations that involve children, take active measures to protect children who participate in its programs.

However, this case shows that that background checks and training, while important and helpful for protecting organizations and participants, cannot prevent sexual predators from going online and victimizing other children.

How can other organizations protect the children that participate in their programs?

  • Reference checks are a must. If candidates cannot provide recent references or if their references refuse to cooperate, then you should give preference to those whose references check out positive.
  • If an applicant's references refuse to cooperate, ask the applicant for other references. It is important that you find past employers that can state the applicant has not shown any signs of being a child predator.
  • On personal references, question the reference closely to determine that the reference worked with the applicant in the manner that was described to you.
  • Google the candidate. See if you can find blogs or other writings by the candidate or about the candidate that will shed more light on the candidate's personality or possible signs of misbehavior.
  • Check social network websites. Social websites ask users to post personal information. How a candidate describes him or herself outside of the hiring process can be very helpful.
  • Double-check factual information the candidate lists on the application. If an applicant is untruthful in his or her written application, then that is a sign to move on to the next candidate.
  • Have ongoing child protection training. Require it for every staff member and volunteer who interacts with the children in your program.
  • Never leave a child alone with one adult. Always have two or more adults present.
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