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Switching Dens

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You can always tell when scouts start back up again because the problems just roll in with the boys.


Our pack has grown significantly this year to 110-120 boys compared to around 60-70 last year. With that growth we are having to make multiple dens at each rank. Currently we have 2 (working on a third) Tiger dens, 2 Wolfs (possibly needing a third), 3 Bears, 2 Webelos 1's (need a third but probably won't happen), and are at the breaking point for 2 Webelos 2 dens.


I am the WDL, also the ACM, and will end up being the CM when my Webelos 2's cross over in February. I say that so you know that I have a stake in this converstation and a role with solving the problem.


Our problem begins in the Bears, where we had 2 dens for the first 3 meetings, which was through last night. We identified a leader and where working on splitting the boys up when our current CM makes a comment that several parents in "Den 2" (second Bear den) called him on his cell phone throughout the week past and said they wanted to be switched to "Den 1" because they didn't like the leaders in "Den 2". The leaders of "Den 2" are trained and actually have more training than a lot of our other leaders and there is no issue with them doing something wrong or with the program, these parents simply stated they didn't like the leaders and they got a bad vibe from them.


These leaders where the only parents to step up when the boys where Tigers (about 10 boys at the time), so they experience with Cub Scouts under their belts. Our CM bought us a week to work on the problem by telling the parents we where in the process of splitting from 2 dens to 3.


My inital reaction is since there is no safety or program problems that the parents should not be allowed to switch. I would prefer to tell them nicely that if they wish to talk to leaders of Den 2 with the CM, ACM (myself), the CC, and/or the COR we can arrange that. Second option if they don't want to that is they can sign up as DL's and help out. Third is move down the road because these people stepped up when no one else would and have a heart for scouting they just don't "show well".


Has anyone ever had this problem? What should we do?

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I was with you until the last sentence...what does "show well" mean?


With 120 boys, I would start thinking about splitting the Pack. That's how new units are grown. Your DE will love it...they just need to find a new CO. I was where you are...15 dens, 4 Webelos dens...what a fiasco. Pack meetings went nearly 3 hours, and it was a zoo. With half as many boys (and parents), the stress levels go way down.

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What about the den leaders doesn't show well? Organization? Crowd Control? Voice? Sluffiness? If the parents want to switch, fine, let them if the dens can all survive.


I agree about splitting the pack. If you are drawing from a large area, you will probably find another CO a bit down the road.

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I think the CC, CM, and you need to "divide and conquer" the Bear parents. Contact each and every one. Get a sensing of what's going on. It may be that nothing is going on, and the parents don't understand Scouting. It may be something else.


I agree... 120 is too big. It's time to think about splitting this monster. At a minimum, you need many more leaders. You should be running 15 dens, with DL/ADL/Den Chief per den. That would get you the BSA standard of 8 boys to a den.


Your Pack is running an average of 11 boys per den, roughly. You should be looking a split when the new dens will have 5-6 kids each.

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I have two personal rules for Den management.


1. Scouts and parents are free to choose which Den they want to join - although suggestions are made, no one is forced to be with any one Den leader. If you force a parent to put a boy into a Den where they don't like the leader or there is a personality conflict betweeen two boys, they will drop from your unit.


2. Den Leaders are free to cap their Den size, so long as they are will to take at least 8 Scouts. I also will not force a Den leader to take more boys than they want, or they too will burn out. Of course if they do insist on a cap, they need to be willing to split in a way to make the new Den a viable one.


In your situation, I agree with your CM. I would tell those parents who don't like the leader in Den 2 that Den 1 is full but they are free to start Den 3.


One thing I have learned was that boys should not be allocated between Dens during a split by the leadership committee. It should be done by the Den Leaders and parents at a Den parent meeting. Just make sure that the current DL understand that his goal is to make two equal Dens and not to take the cream of the crop. If the DL is focussed on the success of the new Den, this works very well.


Of course, you do need a sense of what is happening with the leader in Den 2. Find out if there really is a problem. If he can't keep 4 boys in his Den, then its likely time for a leadership change.





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At this point in time we have no intentions on splitting the pack, we will thin out some, but no matter what we have worked hard to have a strong pack and don't plan on handing half of it over.


What I meant by the statement they don't "show well" is that there presenation of themselves comes across a little brash. The husband is unshaven most of the time, they don't iron their uniforms and only wear part of it (that is all they can afford), and they smell like cigerette smoke (they don't smoke around any of the boys though).


Is it fair for us to tell these leaders who have worked hard to become trained and stepped when no one else would that they need to step down because other parents don't care for their appearance?


We have already spoke with each set of parents individually and the consensus is the leaders don't appear to know what they are doing. One parent even said the leaders come across "creepy" and make them "uneasy". I explained they are trained, the not only know what they are doing but do a great job ensuring the boys advance and enjoy scouting but it doesn't seem to matter. These parents simply don't want their boys in that den.


If we let the parents/boys choose we have one den with about 20 boys, one den with 2-3, and another with 2-3. The boys in the den that everyone wants to be in where in the same den last year, so we want to keep those 8-10 boys together. I don't see a way around talking to the leaders and putting our foot down with the parents.

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I'm surprised your DE hasn't approached you on spliting yet. I know last year a significant part of their personal evaluations was how many new units were created in their district so stay on high alert :)


You do need to break apart the 20 boy Den. Take tohe DL out fro Coffee and explain to them that having a super Den does a disservice to the rest of the Bears. He should ask his or her ADL (or best helper if they don;t have an ADL) to form a new Den. With 26 Bears, you should have four Dens anyway. Then tell the parents there is a new Pack policy capping Dens at 8 Scouts per Den. Let the DL's and parents decide how best to allocated the Scouts witgh both new and returning scouts in each Den. Parents should have a say, but if their first choice is full, then they need take their second or third choice. Make sure your DL doesn't "cherry pick" his favorite Scouts.


In the end, if no one is willing to join the Den run by the "doesn't show well" DL, then you need to face facts that it just isn't going to work out, find a new leader for your fourth Den and put that former DL in an ACM position or give them another committee job.



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