Starting next year, girls can be Cub Scouts, and a program for older girls will be established by 2019, according to an announcement Wednesday that drew simultaneous praise from Boy Scout troop leaders and skepticism from the Girl Scouts.
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting, whose stated mission is to ensure the Boy Scouts "as a viable form of youth ministry with the Catholic youth of our nation", said it has accepted the BSA's decision but did not offer a formal opinion. "The values of Scouting-trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, fearless and reverent, for example-are important for both young men and women", he said in a statement. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a mixed gender pack, or remain an all-boy pack.
The change, which will go into effect next year, will allow girls between ages 7 and 10 to join the Cub Scout program. Meanwhile, the larger Cub Scout packs will be open to both genders.
The decision to admit girls to full membership was made by unanimous vote of the BSA's board of directors Wednesday morning at scouting's headquarters in Irving, Texas.
"The BSA's record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is incredible", said Randall Stephenson, BSA's national board chairman. Only Girl Scouts has more than 100 years of experience helping girls tap into their leadership potential through hands-on STEM, outdoor, entrepreneurship, and life-skills programming.
"Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are separate organizations founded to meet various developmental and leadership needs of girls and boys, respectively", Kim Fraites-Dow said in a statement.
Buzzfeed reported in August that Girl Scouts of America had penned a letter to the Boy Scouts alleging an effort to test "the appeal of a girls' offering to millennial parents", and describing it as a "potentially unsafe and bad idea". Both groups have seens declining membership in recent decades, and the letter charged that the Boy Scouts were trying to increase membership by targeting girls "rather than working to appeal to the 90 percent of boys who are not involved in BSA programs" (ouch). The Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the US, which grew to be the most popular scouting groups in the country, also expanded their badges to include more types of skills.
She also accused BSA of flouting the Congressional Charter and of "undercutting" the Girl Scouts organization by aiming to recruit girls.
"I welcome [the Boy Scouts'] decision to integrate girls in their programs", tweeted Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General and CEO of World Scouting, "On #DayOfTheGirl, we affirm #Scouting commitment to girls empowerment".
The BSA has almost 2.3 million youth members between the ages of 7 and 21 and approximately 960,000 volunteers in local councils throughout the United States and its territories.
"The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today - and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success", Girl Scouts USA said.