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karunamom3

Help. Little advancement.

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This is a hard post to write since there are so many issues that have compounded over time. Here is the whole story.

Back story: So our CO has a Troop & a Pack. They have existed for many decades, 1960's perhaps. In 2014 the pack temporarily  closed & the troop was barely hanging on. In January 2015 they revived the pack with 5 boys & that is when we came along. We ended in June with 3 boys but were able to recruit more over the summer. Every year I am told that they dont know if the troop will hang on long enough for my son to cross over.

At that time, the same man was the SM, CM, Webelos & AOL den leaders. His kids were out of scouting for at least 5 years. He was tired, burnt out and was done. His mom is the CC of both pack & troop. His dad is COR of both pack & troop. Both in their 70's. The family has a very long history of scouting in our town almost from the start. Over the past 2 years, the man who did it all has left all positions.

Pack: I am now CM, DL and plan all camping & activities. There is little parental help and we have 18 kids. But we are rocking it & having fun. Over the 4 years I have been there I have questioned why we do certain things & can we change them with the usual no response. Such as... we cross over in June not feb/March, we do no activities with the troop besides a food drive, AOLs do not attend any troop meetings as required. As I get more training I realize things are not right. I forced a joint camping trip last & this year so we are making progress.

Troop: is a mess and this is where I need help. My son is crossing over this year! The troop has 7 boys, which is a lot for them. 1 is an Eagle, SPL but rarely comes. The SM is zero help. He is the president of our CO (American Legion) so during troop meetings he is cleaning or fixing something, hanging out with CO members, basically not there. He rarely if ever goes camping or on an outing. He usually backs out last minute leaving the scouts & committee scrambling. The CC & COR do not like him as SM & want him out. Problem is there are no parents willing to take over as SM. All of our committee members except for 1 have not had kids in the program for at least 10 years. They are older & burnt out. The troop camps approx 3x a year at most because there is no adult leadership to go. The scouts are not advancing. We have a scout with 35 MBs and is still a tenderfoot. Another has been there for 2yr 9mo and has not made tenderfoot. Our newest scout has been there for 7mo and still no scout rank. The meetings are so boring, the kids just sit at a table all night long, a parent has complained to national, 3 scouts are considering leaving, one 'hates' scouts, one wants to be with the Cubs because 'they have a better program and are more fun'. You get the picture. There is no PLC because they were told that you must be 1st class to be on one. None of the scouts are 1st class except for the Eagle who is rarely there.

Here is where it gets even trickier...since I have 2 girls in Cubs, we decided to start a linked girls troop. We plan to run an amazing girls program, scout led. Female troop is chartered. 

How can I run a great troop for girls, meeting the same night, while my son is bored to death twiddling his thumbs and not progressing. Ugh. This is tough. Council expects issues to arise. To compound it, council advised the new female troop leaders to visit other troops so we can see how different troops run. We brought our AOL sons with us every time & now they see what a troop should be like.

So do we stay or do we leave? We found other troops our sons really like. If we go, the fear is scouting in our town will implode (by us & council). The troop has been waiting for my sons den to cross over with 5 boys & active parents. It's a hell of a lot of pressure on us when all we want is a great program for our sons. The 2 scouter families (me & another mom/dad, 3 of us) can not physically, mentally or emotionally keep Cubs running, revamp the boy troop completely and start a female troop. If I knew just how poorly run the boy troop was I never would have initiated a female troop.

To top it all off the COR & CC husband & wife are taking a leave of absence because he has been diagnosed as terminally ill. So if we leave now, we are the bad guys who ruined our towns scouting while he was sick and destroyed their legacy.

If you are still here, thanks for reading! Any advice at all is greatly appreciated!

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I forgot to add... there is a troop leaders meeting on Monday. The 3 scouters who the pressure is on will be there. We intend to ask the SM why he is still involved and discuss no advancement and troops future/us staying. The CC & a council rep will be there. If you can think of anything we should discuss lmk.

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Posted (edited)

Everybody has to be realistic about the limits of their resources including time and talent. If you cannot effectively be a leader for two troops than you should pick one and give it your all.  If there are other good troops for your son but not for your daughters than that probably would lead you to enrolling your son in the other troop and putting your efforts into standing up your daughters' troop.  Considerations like "other people will think we're the bad guys" or "scouting will die in our town" are probably not true, and at any rate beyond your control.

Frankly, a troop with less than 10 scouts, or really any number of scouts, that's only camping three times a year should be consolidated into another troop that is more active and is strengthened by the addition of more scouts and families.  Troops that don't camp are doing a disservice to their scouts --- and it's the scouts' well being, not tradition, not what council wants, not what will make other adults feel good, that should be the focus of every adult in scouting.

ETA Advancement shouldn't be the main focus of your meeting, having a robust outdoors program should be.  Advancement isn't the point of scouting, it is just one of eight methods to get to the point, without a good outdoor program you won't be able to use Advancement or any other method to achieve scouting's real goals.

Edited by T2Eagle
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The choice of which troop to cross over into should be the choice of the youth, not the parent (though parents can guide that choice). If your son really wants to go to a different troop, then it isn't your job to change his mind. If the other troop is doing fun things with lots of youth, then it isn't your job to tell him to go with the boring troop.

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Thanks malraux. I needed that reminder.

T2Eagle, I am not concerned about the female troop for my daughter yet because she is only a Bear Cub. Although council wants it to start now, of course & understandably.  I realized the lack of camping/outdoor program was a real issue when I was at a training course about first class requirements. When I asked how we could get them there with only 3 trips a year at most the room fell silent and jaws dropped... it was discussed weather the troop should even exist any longer. Also, I do understand about advancement not being the focus, but when the scouts are upset & unhappy themselves about it then there is a problem.

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1 hour ago, karunamom3 said:

We found other troops our sons really like. If we go, the fear is scouting in our town will implode (by us & council).

How densly populated is your area?  Are some of these other boy troops reasonably close by, even if in another town?   If so,  the opportunity for boys in your town to participate in scouting does not go away, even if the troop chartered in your town folds.    So you do not need to feel you are letting scouting for boys down if you focus on the cub pack and/or girl troop and encourage the boys to join stronger existing troops.

Actually, cooperation with those troops might help you with the girls troop.  For us, even though our girls troop is linked with one of the local boys troops,  the other local boys troops (to which we are not linked) are referring girls our direction,  offering to loan us equipment if needed,  and willing to give advice if asked. 

 

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Hi @karunamom3,

Sounds to me like you've got a Scouting program at your CO on life support.  Ouch!  I think you've got two different choices to make:

  1. what do you do for you sons?
  2. what do you do for Scouting at your CO?

You want your sons to have the absolutely best Scouting experience possible.  I wouldn't let personal pressures about supporting the current Scouting program get in the way of that.  If your sons get into a dull, boring program and they quit after 2 years that would only hurt them.

As for your CO's program, I think that @Treflienne asks a key question. 

Beyond that, your pack & troop need to grow.  One of the basic rules I've always seen in Scouting is:

  • Great program leads to youth membership.  Youth membership leads to adult volunteers.  Adult volunteers help build great program.  It's a cycle.

If you've got a pack and troop holding on for dear life being run by a couple of overwhelmed people, it's going to be really hard to build a great program.  Without great program it's going to be hard to recruit new members.  Without new members you're going to struggle for adults to relieve the overwhelmed adults.  To do that, my recommendations are:

  1. Get your parents and supporters together.  Get them all engaged.  Put half to work strengthening the program. Put half to work growing membership.  
  2. See if there are any former Scouters who could be enlisited for a two year commitment as you rebuild.

My experience is that you need to get to about 25-30 scouts and 8-10 volunteers to have a really sustainiable program.  I would set that as my goal.  In your case, you need to build both a pack and a troop, so it's 25-30 scouts in the pack and 25-30 scouts in the troop.

Two simple recommendations I've also seen work well are:

  • Get all the leaders to sit down and write out an annual calendar.  Stick to that calendar.  Don't reschedule things (short of weather) and don't cancel things.
  • Have a monthly adult leaders meeting.  Make it important that everyone attends.

This is very acheviable.  Packs and Troops start every day with fewer resources than you have now.

 

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I'm not overly concerned with the current size of the troop- you note that your 5 are about to cross over, and twelve is a decent size to reinvigorate.  And, you also note that the Pack has picked up momentum on your watch.  Big kudos to you for your hard work there.  Not sure where you are located, but in SE MA, 18-24 kids in a pack and 12-20 kids in a troop is about an average size these days.

Some good advice by others here.  

What I would say is that this quote from your post is your main focus right now: "The 2 scouter families (me & another mom/dad, 3 of us) can not physically, mentally or emotionally keep Cubs running, revamp the boy troop completely and start a female troop."

You are spot on- you cannot do it all, or you are going to be a crispy critter.  You need a meeting with all the parents from the Pack, and you just need to lay it on the line that you are moving on - and that the question is are you moving on the linked girls troop, the linked boys troop, or another CO altogether.  And that if any of them can step up and take on the Pack, you are willing to stay with one of those troops.  If that goes positively, then I would ask to meet with the parents from the troop with basically the same message.  This current SM should actually be the COR (actually, I believe it is Legion policy that the current post commander is always supposed to be the COR, and BSA rules say that a COR can only have a dual position as CC, not SM).  If you have at least two other adult that can help you and step up at troop level, I would suggest you become the SM of the girl troop, another parent become the SM of the boy troop (on paper at least), and you dual register as ASM in boy troop, and vice versa. Third parent dual registers as ASM to both.  The group right now is small enough that you can meet at the same day/time, at least until you can get more growth, which should hopefully bring some more adult involvement.  So long as you and the other adults that step up and help out have enough other support at home, you may want to just amp up outdoor campouts to 4 a year total (for now), and have 2 joint ones, and then give girl troop one of their own, and boy troop one of their own.  That lets them feel they didn't "lose their troop", they are just helping out another unit get going.

Tough situation, I wish you luck.

 

 

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Sounds like you have a passion for scouting but you should focus on the boys for now - If your son wants to go to a troop with fun activities let him, volunteer to be ASM for 2 years at your sons troop, recruit everyone of his friends out of the old troop. Just because the troop has been around for a while doesnt mean it deserves a charter. After 2 years take skills learned back to the girls troop which is the best way you can help your daughter.

 

 

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Publicity.  American Legion members, do they know?  Cub parents, do they know?   Community, is there a local newspaper?   Churches?  School backpack notices?   It may not be September, but that does not mean you can't recruit.  If you have two (2!) other adults that are Scout friendly  ( and,  I intend no insult to your heritage Scouter) and not on life support,  you can find Scout families that want the Scout experience for their kids.   

Make contact with your DE. His pay scale depends on saving and creating Units.  He/she can help with pamphlets and brochures.   Set up a "Scout Me In" night at the Meeting Hall, publicize it well, and see what happens.  Posters and pamphlets in the Library. Posters in the diner's  window. Notice in the Church newsletter.  A banner at an intersection.  Talk to your Scouts, make sure they see Scouting as an "opportunity" despite the lack of activities.  You need adult Scouter Leaders, for sure, but as has been said above,  the activities bring Scouts bring parents bring Scouts.    Get them together and make the offer.  Here's a hike, here's the summer camp....    

All you can do is try....

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16 hours ago, Treflienne said:

How densly populated is your area?  Are some of these other boy troops reasonably close by, even if in another town?   If so,  the opportunity for boys in your town to participate in scouting does not go away, even if the troop chartered in your town folds.    

Actually, cooperation with those troops might help you with the girls troop.  For us, even though our girls troop is linked with one of the local boys troops,  the other local boys troops (to which we are not linked) are referring girls our direction,  offering to loan us equipment if needed,  and willing to give advice if asked. 

 

We are dense here, east central NJ. We have the only troop in town, but there is a boy troop in the 3 towns around us. 2 are less than 10min from our CO and the 3rd is less than 15min.

The female troop is linked to our boy troop (shared equipment), but we will be active with another female troop in 1 of our bordering towns.

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16 hours ago, ParkMan said:

Hi @karunamom3,

Sounds to me like you've got a Scouting program at your CO on life support.  Ouch!  I think you've got two different choices to make:

  1. what do you do for you sons?
  2. what do you do for Scouting at your CO?

You want your sons to have the absolutely best Scouting experience possible. 

Beyond that, your pack & troop need to grow.  One of the basic rules I've always seen in Scouting is:

  • Great program leads to youth membership.  Youth membership leads to adult volunteers.  Adult volunteers help build great program.  It's a cycle.

If you've got a pack and troop holding on for dear life being run by a couple of overwhelmed people, it's going to be really hard to build a great program. 

See if there are any former Scouters who could be enlisited for a two year commitment as you rebuild.

My experience is that you need to get to about 25-30 scouts and 8-10 volunteers to have a really sustainiable program.  

Two simple recommendations I've also seen work well are:

  • Get all the leaders to sit down and write out an annual calendar.  Stick to that calendar.  Don't reschedule things (short of weather) and don't cancel things.
  • Have a monthly adult leaders meeting.  Make it important that everyone attends.

This is very acheviable.  Packs and Troops start every day with fewer resources than you have now.

 

So many good thoughts in your comment @ParkMan. Thank you.

Yes the troop is on life support and has been for at least 6 to 10 years. The pack was, but we have gone from 3 to 18 active scouts (22 registered) in 3.5 years. I have come to realize that the troop does zero recruiting! They rely simply on crossover scouts and word of mouth. The pack on the other hand is more active than the troop in every way & has a good recruitment program too. Your 2 points are spot on... my son & my CO some tough decisions are ahead. I did think of contacting a former SM to see if he can help the troop. I do not think he would give 2 years. I am hoping for a few months, but any help would be great.

I think 25 to 30 scouts is a lot & with even 15 to 20 you could run a more sustainable  program than we have.

As for your 2 simple recommendations, we follow them with the pack. A calendar is created in July & we do stick to it. The troop on the other hand is another story. They still dont know where they will go for summer camp. They have few plans & they do not go into the new year with a plan in place. It drives me nuts & I warned the leaders at January's leader meeting that that will be changing.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, karunamom3 said:

So many good thoughts in your comment @ParkMan. Thank you.

Yes the troop is on life support and has been for at least 6 to 10 years. The pack was, but we have gone from 3 to 18 active scouts (22 registered) in 3.5 years. I have come to realize that the troop does zero recruiting! They rely simply on crossover scouts and word of mouth. The pack on the other hand is more active than the troop in every way & has a good recruitment program too. Your 2 points are spot on... my son & my CO some tough decisions are ahead. I did think of contacting a former SM to see if he can help the troop. I do not think he would give 2 years. I am hoping for a few months, but any help would be great.

I think 25 to 30 scouts is a lot & with even 15 to 20 you could run a more sustainable  program than we have.

As for your 2 simple recommendations, we follow them with the pack. A calendar is created in July & we do stick to it. The troop on the other hand is another story. They still dont know where they will go for summer camp. They have few plans & they do not go into the new year with a plan in place. It drives me nuts & I warned the leaders at January's leader meeting that that will be changing.

 

 

 

Hi @karunamom3,

I'm really glad to hear your pack is at 18 active scouts - that's fantastic!  I had a different impression before and am so very happy I was wrong.  Amazing job!!!

The pack and troop sizes I mentioned come from a simple formula - den and patrol sizes.  Thet may seem like crazy numbers - but let me give a little context on how & why.

When I was a Cubmaster (about 5 years ago), I learned that the best thing for us to focus on was Tiger recruiting and to strive for a full, new Tiger den every year.  We did't just recruit Tigers, but it was our primary goal.  We'd encourage scouts to invite their friends, sent out fliers, visited school open houses, had a join scouting afternoon at our CO, invited prospective scouts to a fun pack meeting, and put out yard signs around town.  What that meant was 8 new Tiger scouts every year.  With 8 Tigers it was a full, active, den and it wasn't too big to manage either.  We found that there were always parents available in that size group to become the den leader and assistant den leader.  It's a formula that's worked out really, really well.  In addition to new Tigers, we'd also get enough other Scouts to fill in spots created by Scouts in other dens who decided not to continue.  

After a few years of this, we had full dens at every level.  With a full den at every level, a pack would be 30-40 Cub Scouts.  With a pack of full dens, we now had a very active pack.  We had enough parents around to have an Assistant Cubmaster or two.  We found that with minimal effort, one parent each year would join the pack committee.  In our case, it's worked out well enough that we now focus on two new Tiger dens each year.  We do this because we find that two dens at every level gives us some flexibilty in how we do programming.  

Our troop works much the same way.  We focus on having enough crossover scouts each year for one or two patrols of new Scouts.  A new patrol would be 6-8 new scouts.  Over time that's 35-40 Scouts in the troop.  We never set out to build a troop that size, it just happens over time - in fact we never talk about numbers in our troop recruiting.  Troop recruiting is really not all that time consuming either.  For us, it consists of: be active in the Cub Pack, invite the Webelos camping, and invite the webelos to visit one or two troop meetings.  Basically, we just do what we do and find opportunities to invovle the Cub Scouts along the way.

So, my projected pack & troop sizes are simply a multiplier of den & patrol sizes.  One new crossover patrol each year - 25-30 scouts.  Two new crossover patrols - 50-60 scounts.  We are currently focusing on two new crossover patrols each year.  I think we are at about 80 scouts in the troop today.

If you stick with the troop, I'd encourage you to think about taking on the CC role.  If the COR & current CC are taking a leave of absence, it provides a great opportunity.  This will give you a clear position of responsibility from which to quarterback much of what happens.  Annual calendar - totally appropriate for a CC to push for that.  Decision on summer camp - the same.  Theoretically, the Scoutmaster just works with the SPL and the Scouts.  In an ideal world, the SM is driving decisions like these, but if your current SM is not, then the CC is in a good position to fill in the gaps.  While you're faced with a weak SM, the troop committee can really provide the leadership to make sure that things get moving. 

For example - the activities chair is supposed to help with transportation, activity signups, camp reservations, and recruit additional adults to attend.  So, ask the SPL for the list of where they want to go for the next 6 months and have the activities chair get to work.  In our troop the scouts handle much of that, but while you're rebuilding let the scouts focus more on organizing themselves and making decisons.  The adults can do the infrastucture stuff (like reservations and transportation) in a way that completly lets the Scouts be in charge, but leverages the adults to get things moving.

Similarly - adults can make a huge impact on recruiting.  Have a small group of parents figure out a recruiting schedule.  Dates for the pack Pinewood Derby, Blue & Gold.  Figure out some troop camping trips to invite Webelos to attend.  Figure out when to have Webelos visit the troop.  Again, let the Scouts make as many of the decisions and do as much of the work as possible.  Adults are great at knowing what decisions need to be made, bringing them to the Scouts through the SPL, and then taking care of the follow-up during a rebuilding time.

Edited by ParkMan
fixed some grammar and typos
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Sounds like you're in a very tough spot.  As much as I can appreciate the desire to start a linked girls' troop, if the current troop only has seven scouts and is on its last legs, will there be any benefit to having the girls' troop linked?  It sounds like there's not really a functioning troop for the boys at all, and while that doesn't automatically mean the girls' troop can't work, it might be tough to get the troop to flourish when the other isn't.

Also, only you and your own kids can decide, but think about what they hope to get out of scouting.  If the best way to keep your son interested enough that you aren't dragging him through the program is to join another troop, then that might be the best choice.  It's tough because in a way the other cubs who are crossing over appear to be reliant on you, but without some serious help and reorganization, it wouldn't be surprising if those who do cross over can't be retained. 

In your same situation, I might chose to look into a nearby girls troop that already exists for your daughter who has two years left for Cub Scouts, and put your efforts into making the existing boys' troop function for those scouts whom you've already recruited and been working with, and for your son who will cross over now.

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Thanks to everyone that responded. Such great advice & support.

Tonight is the troops leaders meeting where we hope to hash it out. We have a council rep joining us to listen and give 'friendly advice' in his words.

We plan to voice our concerns, lay out our options/facilitating them (staying, going, etc) and point blank asking the current SM what his intentions are. I will update tomorrow. 

If we stay, the 3 of us will take leadership roles within the troop. I will not give up CM because I just started. This is my first year & I love it, I really do! As for the girls troop, it may just have to sit on the back burner for now even though council won't like it. We shall see.

Yesterday, I found out why the current SM may be hanging around... he is running for elected office as freeholder. So, being SM looks good on his resume I suppose, but he is failing the youth in the process. 

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