The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and the Girl Scouts of the USA have been devastated by an unprecedented decline in numbers as they struggle to grapple with restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and changing social attitudes to the iconic youth groups.
Membership for the BSA’s flagship Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA programs dropped from 1.97 million in 2019 to 1.12 million in 2020, a 43 percent reversal, according to figures reported Thursday by the Associated Press.
Court records show membership has drained further since then, to about 762,000 and falling.
The Girl Scouts say their youth membership fell by nearly 30 percent, from about 1.4 million in 2019- 2020 to just over one million this year.
AP reports both groups, like several other U.S. youth organizations, have experienced declining membership for many years. The Girl Scouts reported youth membership of about 2.8 million in 2003. The BSA had more than four million boys participating in the 1970s.
A fresh challenge for both groups came six months ago with their separate decisions to give up their single-sex status, and also to recruit boys and girls who say they are transgender.
The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are battling for new members following their separate decisions to give up their single-sex status, and also to recruit boys and girls who say they are transgender. https://t.co/euFkESXzAi
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) December 30, 2020
The decline in membership comes as the BSA on Thursday reached a $850m settlement with some 60,000 people over claims of historic sexual abuse, as Breitbart News reported.
Lawyers say it will be the single largest sexual abuse settlement in U.S. history and in terms of reported numbers, it dwarves similar complaints made against the Catholic Church.
Despite the challenges in finance and recruitment, members are still hopeful for the future.
AP reports organizers say their summer camps are full, special events are sold out, and they’re expecting many thousands of families – some new to scouting, some who left during the pandemic – to sign up now that activities are occurring in-person rather than virtually.
“We knew some girls would take a pause,” said Girl Scouts spokeswoman Kelly Parisi. “But as the pandemic goes in the rear-view mirror, we’ve seen a substantial rebound… We feel really good going into the fall recruitment.”
AP contributed to this report