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Potential Problems with Parents as MB Counselors

I am a registered leader in my sons’ troop, and I am also a counselor for several different merit badges. As a teacher at a very small school, I teach English, history/humanities, and p.e. The subjects I teach qualify me for counseling a lot of merit badges.

One of the merit badges I am registered to counsel for is Personal Fitness. I am new to the troop (just crossed over with my younger sons last month), but I have been registered as a MB counselor since last fall.

There is another adult in our troop that has been the go to guy for Personal Fitness for several years. He’s beyond qualified and is a fantastic leader. However, he has had some other obligations the last few months and hasn’t been able to attend the weekly troop meetings for the last 4-6 weeks. I’m going to call him Mr. D.

Our court of awards is next week, so a lot of the boys have been trying to get partials finished up and signatures on completed requirements these past few weeks.

One boy in the troop had all of his PF requirements signed off by Mr. D. - except for the completion of his fitness plan. He asked me last week to sign off that last piece, so we went over his plan, his progress, what he felt the program did for him, and how he planned to continue his healthy lifestyle. I signed it off and he turned it in.

A second boy, who happens to also be my oldest son, completed all of the PF requirements about 6 weeks ago. He has been at every troop meeting since, but has not been able to get his blue card signed by Mr. D., because of the absences (and I want to make it clear that I don’t blame Mr. D. - he’s an awesome guy and has every right to take a break). My son asked me to sign of his PF badge, but I was reluctant to, because I didn’t want anyone to question the validity of the work.

Now, I know that he did the requirements. While I didn’t consider myself his counselor while he was working on it - all along, he intended to meet with Mr. D. - I was with him for much of the work, and there is no question in my mind as to whether or not he has earned the badge.

However, to cover his bases, I spoke with one of the ASMs in the troop about the situation (he has been involved in scouting for 40+ years and is very well respected in our troop and council). They said it’s not ideal to have a parent sign off on the blue card, but given Mr. D.'s situation and the pending court of awards, he told me to go ahead and sign off on it.

The Advancement Chair heard about this conversation and sought me out. He advised that there would likely never be an issue with me signing off on merit badges for my sons, unless they were Eagle required badges. He advised that I not sign off on the PF (or other Eagle badges), because it may be questioned down the line. I wasn’t sure who he thought would question it. I told him that I completely agreed with him and thought that my boys should all work with counselors other than myself when possible, but explained that my son had been waiting 6 weeks to get the badge signed off and the ASM told me to go ahead and sign it. The AC expressed that it would be different if I were working with a group of boys, but since I wasn’t (even though technically I did sign off another boy who did a lot of the work for the badge with my son) it might not be considered kosher.

Now I’m torn as to what to do. We only have a Court of Awards every 6 months, so I find it a bit unfair that my son would have to wait over 7 months after completing a merit badge to actually receive it (especially one that’s as time consuming and difficult as PF) - but I also do not want my signature to call into question the hard work and effort I know that he put in towards that badge.

So, my questions are… Is the AC’s concern warranted? Is there a risk down the line when my son goes for Eagle that his Personal Fitness MB be called into question if I am the one (as a registered MB counselor) that signed it off?

He’s only 13 now, but I don’t want him to be 17 and a half years old and find out that his PF MB doesn’t count and he doesn’t have time to redo the entire fitness plan for 3 months. I also don’t want his integrity to be questioned. But I know how much work he did this winter, and I feel he deserves to receive the award and wear it on his sash now.

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The Guide to Advancement specifically addresses the issue of MBCs approving badges for their children, and indicates that it is acceptable. That’s the rule. It also indicates that the BSA’s goal is for the scouts to branch-out in terms of the variety of people approving MBs (i.e. not always using the same counselor, whether it’s a parent or not).

I have heard many people express the concerns described by your AC, but I’ve never actually seen it happen. Personally, as an MBC, I would sign it off the same way I would sign-off any other scout who presented me with the completed work.


While not ideal, you can certainly sign off on merit badges for your own son- required and non-required eagle. You just can’t sit on your own child’s boards of review. The guide to advancement is pretty clear on both of these issues.


In addition, the BSA only records that the MB was completed, not the MBC who signed off on it or any of its requirements. When it comes time for your son’s Eagle application to be processed, the council will only look to see that all the MBs were completed and that he was registered at the time they were completed. No one will check to see if the MBs were even approved by a registered MBC.


I think there is away around this ( parents or unite leaders signing off their children’s badges and rank advancements) keep everyone in the loop ( other leaders and parents) it works for us although it’s the opposite due to me being the leader with no kids and the troops main mbc I do all the sign offs. Now granted we are small with19 between both our troops but I post to our face book page each time a scout completes a rank or merit badge. I would love to see the other leaders do the sign offs for there own kids but they hear the message it’s not proper. But to me having one person do it’s always back of my mind would it get qustioned. So I post it show all parties are aware of advancements for all the kids

Who can sign off requirements?

Related article and ScoutCast (2016)

that means once a Scout finishes the Family Life merit badge, he can’t turn to Mom or Dad for a signature. Unless, of course, the parent is a registered and approved merit badge counselor. (for that merit badge)

Let’s remember the “BSA Journey to Excellence Concepts”. Only the top ten percent of units are expected to achieve the gold level.

Tri-level recognition program
The philosophy from the start of JTE has been to set up a system where 10 percent of the councils, districts and units will achieve gold status, the next 40 percent will achieve silver status, and the next 30 percent will achieve bronze status:

  • Bronze – Effective = 20th percentile to the 49th percentile
  • Silver – Excellent = 50th percentile to the 89th percentile
  • Gold – Exceptional = top 10 percent
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Guide to Advancement: The Merit Badge Program Counselor Approvals and Limitations
Approved counselors may work with and pass any member, including their own child, ward, or relative. Nevertheless, we often teach young people the importance of broadening horizons. Scouts meeting with counselors beyond their families and beyond even their own units are doing that. They will benefit from the perspectives of many “teachers” and will learn more as a result. They should be encouraged to reach out.


Bottom line: if you are the best scouter for the job, do your job! Do it for your son just like you’d do it for any other scout.

When another counselor becomes available in your neighborhood … that’s when you should send your sons/daughters elsewhere.

Regarding the timing of things (because sooner or later you’re going to get that scout whose fitness plan won’t be completed until the day after the court of honor), the MB is considered earned on the date the counselor signs off as completed. So don’t feel pressured to sign off just so the scout won’t have to “wait” six months to get the badge. You won’t be delaying his/her rank advancement. If that’s all scouts need for the next rank, they can get their scoutmaster conference and board of review the next meeting after you sign off, and that’s the date of completion … even if they don’t get the patch for another few months.

Some troops won’t wait until a CoH that’s months away to give scouts badges they earn in the interim. They’ll order them and the SPL will present them during a regular meeting. That way they may wear those newly earned insignia at the next ceremony.


This is what we try to do, too. A Scout should not have to wait that long for their rank or merit badge patch, so we try to present them at a regular troop meeting. They get recognized again at the next COH.


I wish that were the case in our troop. As far as I know (and while I’m new as a leader, but my older son has been in the troop for 3 years), nothing is awarded except at the CoH, which is only twice a year. I see the scouts feeling a lot of pressure to get the awards turned in the last few weeks before a CoH, because otherwise they won’t see the physical award until the fall - for a 10-13 year old kid, that might as well be ten years away.

Even my younger boys, who have been in the troop a whole three weeks, were upset that they didn’t finish their Scout rank advancement this week, because they were told by older boys that now they won’t receive the badge until November.

I’m sure by November, with summer camp and all sorts of other outings, they will have earned Tenderfoot and maybe even Second Class, so getting that Scout patch no longer seems special to them when they’ve moved so far beyond that when they finally receive it. They also now know that they’ll go to summer camp without a rank patch on their uniforms, and that has them bummed - and is quite silly, because there’s still four months until summer camp.

I don’t understand the need for the delay, because it seems so de-motivational to have to wait months for the recognition.

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Quarterly COH is a benchmark for JTE gold. You should be having COH’s at least every 3 months.


I would talk to the committee chair and SM about the de-motivational effect you’re seeing. Even if they went to something quarterly, that would accelerate getting the badges out to the scouts, without a drastic increase in burden on the advancement chair/store runner.


Great minds and all that…


Maybe you could gently bring it up to the Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, and Advancement Chair? Shopping for awards monthly or quarterly should be workable. And the Scouts can always be recognized a second time at the next COH.


My troop recently went to handing out rank patches within a few weeks of them being earned. Merit Badges are still only given out at a quarterly COH.


I don’t get making scouts wait for badges they’ve already earned. The guide is very clear: The Scout Is Recognized
When a Scout has earned the Scout rank or when a board
of review has approved advancement, the Scout deserves
recognition as soon as possible
. This should be done at a
ceremony at the next unit meeting. The achievement may
be recognized again later, such as during a formal court
of honor.

We actually keep a stash of Scout patches so they can be awarded the same night.


If the Scout Shop staff is doing their jobs properly, this is not possible because purchasing rank and merit badge patches requires a completed advancement report. Scout Shops should not be selling these patches before a Scout earns them.


When the closest Scout Shop is about 70 miles and about 1 hr and 20 minutes (with the council office even further(~90 mi & ~1.8 hrs)) it is a different proposition to getting the rank and MB patches, etc in a timely manner. The Scout Shop will recognize email orders (SB reports) and mail to our home, however that is an additional cost (shipping, etc) and time for the mail to be delivered.
We hold COHs in March and Sept on the regular meeting night but make it a big deal with all families bringing fried chicken and fixings. We think that 2 COHs/year is proper balance for our troop and area and has been successful for a very long time (my experience of over 25 years) and the troop has been in existence for over 80 years.
We tried the method of “immediate recognition” for ranks for a while. Did not work very well, too many youth lost the badges before the next week, etc so we stopped.


@MichaelMcGehearty - thanks for that perspective. It opens my eyes to other ways of doing things. We don’t have the geographical struggles you do - our scout shop is about 20 minutes from our meeting location.

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I’m still not sure why you only hold COH’s twice a year instead of quarterly as benchmarked in JTE. Clearly BSA has a different perspective on the importance of COH’s. If holding COH’s twice a year was so successful, you would not have been prompted to write your original post.


We give rank badges the week after the board of review and recognize them again at our 3 courts of honor. Merit badges as stated are done when they are accepted by the troop after the merit badge counselor signs off. No need to wait one minute to start the next rank.

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