If your little girl is tired of getting left out while her brother's learning how to start a fire with a couple of sticks, there's some good news on the horizon. Starting in 2018, you'll be able to sign your daughter up for Boy Scouts, or at least, a girls' version of it. The Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors announced on Wednesday that it had unanimously voted to allow girls into Cub Scouts, and the organization will also develop a program for older girls that will extend to the Eagle Scout rank. BSA research indicates that many families, whether already involved with the organization or not, would be interested in enrolling girls.
The move has been touted as a way to appeal to families that prefer the convenience of a single activity for multiple children, but in practice, it's not quite so simple. Cub Scouts are divided into "dens" of six to eight boys in the same grade level, and "packs" comprise all the dens within a community. Starting in 2018, the BSA will allow packs to choose whether to allow girls, establish separate packs for girls, or remain boys-only. However, dens will be designated as boys- or girls-only, according to a press release.
This means that while your kids of different ages and genders might belong to the same pack, they'll definitely be attending different meetings and events most of the time. It also means that as usual, non-binary and gender non-conforming people have been left out of the narrative. The BSA has made great strides recently, finally allowing gay kids in 2013, gay leaders in 2015, and transgender kids just this past January. But unfortunately, it's still not open to everyone, since it will still needlessly segregate kids into binary genders, even though the content of both programs will be identical.
The Cub Scout program is designed for kids ages 7-10; male participants go on to Boy Scouts between the ages of 11 and 17 before attaining the Eagle Scout rank. The BSA anticipates its program for girls to be introduced in 2019, but so far, it's unclear how it might differ from Boy Scouts, or why. The organization's press release states that "[e]ducation experts also evaluated the curriculum and content and confirmed relevancy of the program for young women," so there's no obvious reason why it would develop a new program if the old one is appropriate.
The BSA still won't allow all girls, though, or all boys, for that matter. Though the organization's official rules and regulations state that "people of all religious backgrounds are welcome in Scouting," that welcome is not extended to those who have no religion. The BSA charter and bylaws assert that "no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God," and participants are required to swear an oath to uphold the Scout Law, which includes the principle, "A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties."
If you're looking for a group where all children are welcome, there are other options. SpiralScouts International was originally conceived as a Wiccan group, but is open to all, Navigators USA welcomes members "no matter what gender, race, lifestyle, ability, religious or lack of religious belief," the Baden-Powell Service Association offers a traditional scouting program for "everyone, youth and adult, regardless of gender identity, religious choice, [or] sexual orientation," and Camp Fire even has an official Statement of Inclusion: "Camp Fire works to realize the dignity and worth of each individual and to eliminate human barriers based on all assumptions that prejudge individuals. Designed and implemented to reduce sexual, racial, religious, and cultural stereotypes and to foster positive intercultural relationships, in Camp Fire, everyone is welcome." Whatever club your daughter chooses, it should help her develop lasting skills and friendships.