Beyond Criminal Background Checks – Making Sure That “Great Guy,” Really Is

Beyond Criminal Background Checks – Making Sure That “Great Guy,” Really Is

This is a guest article from Boy Scouts of America Youth Protection Executive Glen Pounder.


While criminal background and reference checks can be valuable tools in helping to prevent abuse, no organization should ever rely on them alone. Youth-serving organizations, schools, sporting organizations, houses of worship – every institution where adults interact with kids – must remain vigilant and bolster the use of criminal background and reference checks along with a set of policies, awareness, training, and implementation measures that are always applied.   

“Stranger Danger” can be very real, and criminal background and reference checks can provide a line of defense against the type of people with known issues and criminal intent who would attempt to infiltrate youth-serving organizations with the aim of accessing, befriending, grooming, and sexually abusing children. However, most people who sexually abuse children are not strangers but are already known to their victim(s), and many of them may have no prior criminal background.  

Consider Jerry Sandusky, a well-known example of a person who used his position and reputation to manipulate the trust of those around him so he could abuse children.  

Someone who “knew” Sandusky (of course, before his crimes came to light), said this about him: 

“It’s like he was put on this earth to work with kids. I don’t know if I have ever met another man that was as caring and as compassionate with children as he is.” 

They thought they knew him and that he was a “great guy.”   

Those who commit the difficult-to-contemplate crime of sexual exploitation or abuse of a child are often referred to as “monsters” or “predators.” Unfortunately, those types of labels can make it seem impossible that such a person could be someone you already know, someone you like, someone you trust.  

They may be in a position of power and authority, as Sandusky was. They might be someone who appears to be a “great guy,” an adult who is known and trusted. But the reality is that these criminals – men and women – are master manipulators (of adults and children). They will look to exploit blind spots, which means any youth-serving organization must work constantly to stay vigilant.   

To be clear, this is not about being mistrustful of people we know and like, it’s more about active awareness. If anyone starts to think, “We’re okay because this is a small community where we know everyone, so that helps reduce risk,” that is exactly the type of blind spot these individuals are looking to exploit.  

People think they’ve built a relationship with an adult they know – an adult they feel they can trust, an adult who they think would never hurt a child – and that type of trust is exactly what a criminal wants. Active awareness, regardless of the size or close-knit nature of your community, can help be a preventative measure.    

As manipulative as they are, criminals still make mistakes and leave clues. These clues don’t require a Sherlock Homes level of insight; often, if you know what to look for, there are red flags or breadcrumbs being left for anyone to see. Unfortunately, many times, it’s only after a terrible crime comes to light that people reflect on what they saw and heard.  

To be clear, it’s not our job to be detectives or “investigate,” – that’s the role of law enforcement. It is, however, our responsibility to recognize improper or inappropriate behavior and report it 

Reporting inappropriate behavior, innocuous as an incident might seem at the time, can provide a piece of the puzzle that may help reveal an identifiable pattern of behavior.  That may lead to a problematic adult being PREVENTED from working or volunteering with children; not because a crime was committed, but before an offense can take place.  

Youth-serving organizations must build active awareness and reporting of inappropriate behavior into their culture, and they must implement and enforce policies around these disciplines to prevent abuse and other harms.  

Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed here, not everyone who appears to be a “great guy” actually is one, and, when the people in youth-serving organizations know that fact, they clearly understand the “why” behind policies like those in the Boy Scouts of America’s Youth Protection Training 

When everyone understands the “why” of these policies, it helps move the entire organization toward a safer reality of keeping every child in their programs safe from harm.  


Scouting Wire would like to thank Glen Pounder for sharing this article. 


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Beyond Criminal Background Checks – Making Sure That “Great Guy,” Really Is
Beyond Criminal Background Checks – Making Sure That “Great Guy,” Really Is
Beyond Criminal Background Checks – Making Sure That “Great Guy,” Really Is