Be prepared for changes in Scouting.

Boy Scouts of America's board of directors announced earlier this month the organization will begin to allow girls to join Cub Scouts dens in 2018.

The organization also will create a Scouting program for older girls that will allow them to earn the Boy Scouts' highest distinction of Eagle Scout.

Representatives from central Ohio's Scouting organizations say it's uncertain if many girls will want to join the Boy Scouts, but offer differing views on whether the decision was a positive move.

Boy Scouts leaders have been studying the issue of accepting girls into the program for several years, said Jeff Moe, Scout executive and CEO of the Simon Kenton Council. The council serves 17 counties in central and southern Ohio and Greenup County in northern Kentucky.

"We've heard from many girls and families who have asked if there was a way for girls to participate in our program," Moe said.

The Boy Scouts' decision was backed by research, he said.

Surveys conducted earlier this year of parents not involved in Scouting showed 90 percent expressed interest in a program such as Cub Scouts, with 87 percent expressing interest in the Boy Scouts. The BSA surveys included two external surveys and four internal surveys, according to the organization.

The decision to allow girls into Cub Scouts beginning next year will help broaden the leadership and program opportunities for young women, Moe said.

"There are already girls involved in several Boy Scout programs, including Venturing and Exploring," he said.

Boy Scouts of America is not looking to "poach" members from the ranks of the Girl Scouts, Moe said.

"I think the aim of this decision is to bring girls in to the Boy Scouts program who aren't yet involved in a Scouting program," he said.

Many families want an organization their children of any gender can join, Moe said.

Others want their daughters to be able to go through the process of earning Eagle Scout honors, just as their sons can, he said.

If girls are going to be involved in Scouting, they are best served by the Girls Scouts of America, said Laurie Marino, vice president of marketing and communications with the Girl Scouts of Ohio's Heartland.

Girl Scouts of Ohio's Heartland serves 23,000 girls in a 30-county area.

"Our general reaction is that we were saddened to hear the BSA is going to begin allowing girls to join the Boy Scouts," Marino said. "We understand this is a strategic approach they're wanting to take, but we believe the Girls Scouts offers the best leadership development program for girls.

"We have more than a century of experience doing what we do," she said. "Our programs are research-based and steeped in what girls need from a development perspective, especially in this time."

Research shows girls thrive in a "safe space," encouraged and supported by female mentors and peers, Marino said.

"There is value to a single-gender program," she said.

The Boy Scouts' decision does not mean there will be mixed-gender Cub Scout dens, Moe said.

"That's a misconception that a lot of people have," he said

Beginning with the 2018 program year, families can register both their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts, he said. But Cub Scout dens -- the smallest division -- will be single-gender.

An existing pack will be able to establish a new pack for girls, establish a pack that has both girl and boy dens, or remain an all-boy pack, Moe said.

"If they want to start a den that has both boys and girls in it, they can't be a part of the Boy Scouts organization," he said.

Greg Bergmann, Scoutmaster for Grandview Boy Scout Troop 73, said he welcomes the addition of girls to the Boy Scouts.

"I've been involved in Scouting for 12 years, and my only regret is that I couldn't share the experience with my daughter, who's now 20 years old," he said.

"I do see some value" in bringing girls into the Boy Scouts program, Bergmann said.

"One of the primary objectives in Scouting is to be a good person and be able to interact with and treat other people well," he said.

"All of the values of Scouting -- things like being trustworthy, loyal, kind, clean and reverent, all of that list -- are good character traits for both girls and boys," Bergmann said. "I think a program that allows boys and girls to interact together will only help encourage those character traits."

If girls were to join the Cub Scouts, it would require virtually no change in the core program, he said.

"Most everything a Scout has to learn to do are things that both girls and boys can easily accomplish," Bergmann said.

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