Local Scouting programs to continue despite bankruptcy filing
Local officials with the Boy Scouts of America say that the national organization's recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy will not impact local Scouting programs in Barry County.
The BSA national council announced on Tuesday that it had filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of an expected wave of lawsuits filed against the organization by survivors of sexual abuse by volunteer Scout leaders.
The Michigan Crossroads Council, which represents Scouting organizations in Michigan, released a statement Tuesday, saying that the council is financially independent from the national organization and that Scouting programs will continue on as usual.
“The Michigan Crossroads Council has not filed for bankruptcy,” said Donald Shepard, scout executive and chief executive officer of the Crossroads Council, in the statement. “Meetings and activities, district and council events, other Scouting adventures and countless service projects are taking place as usual. In short, there should be no change.”
There are 13 Scouting units in Barry County, with more than 110 young people participating, said Aaron Gach, chief executive officer for the BSA's President Ford field service council office in Grand Rapids, which covers Scouting programs in western and northern lower Michigan.
Overall, the Ford council office serves more than 10,000 Scouts throughout its 30-county coverage area, Gach said.
The Crossroads Council statement also asserts that Scouting programs are safer than ever.
“Over many years, we’ve developed some of the strongest expert-informed youth protection policies found in any youth-serving organization,” Shepard said. “I can also assure you that our volunteers and employees take youth protection extremely seriously and do their part to help keep kids safe.”
The BSA issued an apology on Feb. 11, to survivors of abuse and announced plans for expanded services to support them.
The Boy Scouts are teaming up in a five-year partnership with 1in6, a national nonprofit that provides various resources and support services to male survivors of sexual abuse. The organization's name derives from studies concluding that about one in six men in the U.S. experienced sexual abuse.
The BSA said the partnership will enable 1in6 to expand its 24/7 web-based helpline chat service, which helps survivors connect quickly to a trained advocate for abuse victims.
Matthew Ennis, CEO of 1in6, said the BSA was making a financial contribution to the partnership, but neither he nor the Boy Scouts would specify the amount. It's unclear how much cash the BSA has on hand to enter into significant ventures at a time when its finances are in turmoil.
The Boy Scouts recently mortgaged its national properties, including the vast Philmont Ranch in New Mexico, to help secure a line of credit, with the properties being used as collateral amid a crush of sex-abuse lawsuits.
The organization's finances have been strained by sex abuse settlements for several years, and the situation worsened after New York, Arizona, New Jersey, and California enacted bills last year making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to file claims. Teams of lawyers across the U.S. have been signing up clients by the hundreds to join lawsuits against the BSA.
One of those lawyers, Seattle-based Mike Pfau, questioned whether the 1in6 partnership announcement was a ``publicity attempt'' linked to the bankruptcy declaration.
``Sadly, this is extraordinarily late in the game, particularly given the Boy Scouts knew that perpetrators had been infiltrating their ranks for 100 years,'' said Pfau, referring to files of suspected molesters that the BSA began compiling in the 1920s.
The BSA said the partnership will allow 1in6 to expand the number of online support groups for men who were sexually abused from two to five each week.
The organization said the new arrangement was expected to continue regardless of how it deals with its current financial crisis.
``We sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed in Scouting,'' said Roger Mosby, the BSA's president and CEO. ``In addition to implementing strong policies to prevent abuse, we are dedicated to supporting victims when and how they need it.''
Ennis said the BSA's financial difficulties were discussed during negotiations on the partnership.
``We believe they will be able to deliver on that over a 5-year period,'' he said.
One of Pfau's clients, Virginia resident Ralph Morse, described the new partnership as ``a step in the right direction.''
``But it certainly doesn't compensate for anything that's happened to survivors,`` he said.
Morse is suing the BSA for alleged abuse by a scoutmaster in the 1960s in upstate New York.
For years, the Boy Scouts have offered to fund in-person counseling for any current or former scout. Michael Johnson, the Boy Scouts youth protection officer, said he became convinced that 1in6 could offer a broader range of survivor support after hearing about it from an abuse victim, Jason Lee.
Lee, a 45-year-old software consultant in Atlanta, was abused by an assistant scoutmaster while in the Boy Scouts in Alabama. The molester, Charles Corley, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1995.
The BSA has set up a website that further addresses the bankruptcy and efforts to compensate abuse victims at www.bsarestructuring.org. To learn more about local Scouting programs and their response to the bankruptcy, visiting www.michiganscouting.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.