Cub Scout family dens: What they are, and how they could work for your pack

Cub Scout salute

The BSA’s 2023 National Annual Meeting was all about how Scouting is moving forward. In addition to reinforcing its commitment to safety, the BSA also announced a new option for family dens.

Below is the official announcement:

Effective June 1, 2023, family packs that serve both girls and boys may now form dens with both girls and boys in kindergarten (Lion), first grade (Tiger), second grade (Wolf), third grade (Bear) and fourth-grade Webelos dens. Fifth-grade Cub Scouts are to remain in gender-specific dens to prepare them for joining a gender-specific Scouts BSA Troop.

How did the BSA come to this decision?

If I’ve learned anything from working with both the professionals and volunteers who determine the rules and policies of the Cub Scout program, it’s that they don’t make decisions like these based on hunches and feelings.

They make them based on research and data.

During the 2022-23 program year, 150 councils and more than 2,000 Cub Scout packs participated in a pilot program where dens of kindergarten through fourth-grade Cub Scouts were formed as family dens with both boys and girls. The pilot was an overwhelming success, with participating packs recruiting more girls and boys in the fall, ending the year with higher membership growth and significantly higher satisfaction among parents and leaders than non-participating packs.

Do Cub Scout family dens run a different program than single-gender dens?

No.

There is no change in the program. All current barriers-to-abuse policies apply.

The family den option allows family packs to form family dens. The BSA will be providing more marketing resources for fall 2023 (and beyond) recruitment with boys and girls in the same image. Program resources and position-specific training modules are currently being updated to reflect the family den option.

If one of the dens in my pack is a family den, do they all have to be family dens?

No.

The BSA offers lots of flexibility in forming dens. All of the dens in the pack do not have to be the same.  The BSA still believes that ideal dens are formed by grade and rank with 8-10 Cub Scouts per den, but the BSA also recognizes that in some situations, it doesn’t always work out that way.

The bottom line is, dens should be formed in a way that best meets the needs of the families the pack is seeking to serve. For example, packs could have a den of boys, a den of girls, a family den, a multi-rank den and any combination of different den types.

What is a multi-rank den?

Multi-rank dens are dens that have more than one rank of Cub Scouts. For example, a pack may have two kindergarteners (Lions) and three first-graders (Tigers) in the same den, with those five Cub Scouts each still working toward their grade-specific badge of rank.

Why can’t fifth-grade Arrow of Light dens be family dens?

The primary purpose of Arrow of Light dens is to prepare Cub Scouts for the kinds of experiences they’ll have in Scouts BSA. Since Scouts BSA troops remain single gender, it was decided that AOL dens should be single gender, too.

Does my pack have to offer family dens?

No.

If your chartering organization and pack committee feel like you can best serve your families by only offering single-gender dens, then you can continue doing so.


About Aaron Derr 436 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.