Even as its past policies on sex-abuse prevention fuel controversy, the Boy Scouts of America is hosting an unprecedented closed-door symposium today with other national youth organizations, hoping to share strategies to combat future abuse.
The 10 participating groups, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the First Tee, will hear presentations from some of the nation's top experts on child sex-abuse prevention. They also will discuss the sensitive topic of how uncorroborated information about potentially threatening adult volunteers might be shared among youth organizations.
Planning for the one-day session in Atlanta began late last year, part of long-standing efforts by the Boy Scouts to demonstrate a commitment to preventing the abuse problems that have bedeviled it and other youth groups.
Boy Scout leaders have been criticized for a lack of transparency in the ways they deal with sex abuse allegations. They have fought to keep their so-called "perversion files" confidential, and those files reveal many cases in which the Scouts failed to protect youths from pedophiles.
The forum takes place just two weeks after the court-ordered release of confidential files compiled by the Scouts from 1959-85 with information about 1,200 alleged abusers in the ranks of its adult leaders.
The public is excluded from the symposium, which the organization says will encourage candid discussion among participants.
The other participating youth groups are Girls Inc., USA Swimming, Camp Fire, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting and the American Youth Soccer Organization.
Conference organizers plan to summarize the conclusions of the meeting for a report that will be made available to other youth-serving organizations that did not participate.