How Scouting helps fill a void in single-parent households


A few months ago, the Pew Research Center released new information about the American family. Continuing a trend, the surveys showed that 41 percent of American children are being raised by single mothers. Among African-Americans, the figure is 72 percent; and among Hispanics, the figure is 53 percent. Pew also revealed that 44 percent of today’s single mothers have never been married.

What this means for Scouting: More and more boys and young men need the male role models, mentoring, structure and values Scouting provides. And many single mothers are reaching out to the BSA to make sure their boys get those life-enhancing benefits.

“It’s hard enough for two parents to raise kids on top of careers and other activities,” says Lou Sandoval, a Chicago Area Council commissioner. “I can only imagine how difficult it is for single parents to do that alone, especially if they live in an area where they don’t have a lot of family support.”

The good news, Sandoval says, is that Scouting can help fill that vacuum in single-parent homes. “During the kids’ school years, Scouting provides an activity structure to keep them active, engaged and focused on constructive things,” he says. “Long term, Scouting may also help to provide vocational opportunities or at least an awareness of them.”

To find out more about Scouting’s impact on boys raised in single-parent homes, we asked three single moms to sound off about the benefits of the BSA:

Tara Scarborough of Abingdon, Va., mother of Daniel, 18, Eagle Scout. Scarborough’s brother was a Scout for a few years during their childhood, but otherwise she had no prior experience with Scouting.

“I’m a single mom, and I will be the first to say a boy needs a male role model. It’s a guy thing. They have to go get muddy and bloody and whatever else it is they do on campouts. They need to be around testosterone, not just estrogen. Men’s brains are wired differently from women’s, and the boys need both perspectives.

“People who know Daniel know that Scouting’s had a great effect on him. He may not be the perfect example of the stereotypical ‘perfect’ Eagle, but I shudder to think where he would be if he hadn’t had Scouts and Scoutmasters to influence him along the way. It was what he needed. It has kept him on track.”

Rachel Vlach of Berwyn, Ill., mother of Malaikai, 8, Cub Scout. Vlach is from a Scouting family, so it was “a natural thing” to involve her son in the program.

“[Malaikai’s] father left us when he was 4, so he’s learned things from the male leaders that I couldn’t teach him. He’s learned some of the respect for men and how to see men in a positive light — not just like someone who will leave. He really attaches himself to the male leaders in the group. When he sees our Cub pack leader’s husband, he’ll just run up to him and give him a hug and say, ‘How you doing?’

“He has ADHD, but at the meetings, he’s always listening, very attentive, does everything he should. He’s calm, cool and collected there. He can’t wait to get into Boy Scouts so he can go camping. He’s made two great friends, and the three of them say they’re going to become Eagle Scouts together.”

Karen Neimanas, of Chicago, Ill., mother of Jake, 20, Eagle Scout and Venturer. Neimanas had no prior experience with Scouting before her son became involved.

“Jake’s father passed away six years ago. He was an alcoholic, so there were lots of challenges at home. But Jake had started in Scouts at 7, and he stayed with it and moved through the ranks. Scouting gave him a chance to see what different men do in positive ways to be involved in children’s lives.

“He has just gone to work as a licensed emergency medical technician, and I’m convinced that without Boy Scouts, he would not have been interested in that. When he learned the lifesaving and survival skills, he really liked it. Scouting provided an easy transition to the role of a first responder and someone who takes leadership. I just wish everyone could see the value of the Boy Scout program. I’m so glad he loved it and stayed with it.”



  1. I was raised in a single-parent household from the age of 8. My dad was involved in our lives and we did the whole every-other-weekend, six-weeks-per-summer visitation thing, but it’s fair to say that he was not a daily influence in my life. It left a gaping hole that Boy Scouts helped to fill. The leaders, dads, and even some of the older boys in my Boy Scout troop were surrogate fathers to me and taught me skills that my father couldn’t teach me, due either to time, distance, or lack of knowledge. My troop gave me purpose and stability when I desperately needed it. I revered all of my scoutmasters and, at 41 years old, still do to this day. I’ve found 2 of them on facebook and to be able to interact with them as an adult is immensely rewarding–especially to have the chance to thank them for everything they did for and meant to me. One of them in particular is a personal hero.

    Scouts also helped my mother by giving her 3 boys something to do and a place to learn to be good men. My troop knew that we were poor, but they never let us “go without” because of it. I went on every campout, every expedition, every summer camp, every adventure that our troop participated in except for the really expensive stuff like Philmont and Jamboree. The troop always helped my mom find a way to provide, and they kicked in quite a bit of money themselves.

    Boy Scouts was as important as as critical a factor in my childhood as anything else I can think of. I never forget it, especially when I look at all the boys in my own Pack–I try to give them what the Boy Scouts gave me. I will always be grateful.

  2. I am a single mother who has been my son’s Den Leader and now Cub Master for the past 3 years. It is hard to get males involved in our community. Most of the parents work second shift or they are more involved with sports. I am continuing to look for a bigger male influence in our community. It has almost come to the point that I have lost my Scouting Spirit.

  3. Nice article. I am a single mom and was divorced when my son was two so it’s only been me. When my son wanted to join as a Tiger, it made me very happy that he would have a positive male role model. My son will be bridging over to Boy Scouts next month and I, his mother who is also his Den Leader am very proud of him. Guess it didn’t work out like I hoped! Lol

  4. I was a single mother til two years ago. My son’s father was abusive and neglectful during the few visitations he chose to take. Once our group leaders were aware of the situation the men in our pack/troop stepped up to help provide a positive male influence for my son. He learned that men do not need violence or alcohol to solve problems. It made him self reliant so that when he would get left alone for long periods of time during his visits he could safely take care of himself by the age of 7.

  5. The challenge I have is that my spouse travels overseas 95% of the time. He is gone for long periods of time including weekends. Campung trips, trying to figure out how to help with the Pinewood Derby with a 7 year old, no tools and no skills is just very isolating. I have no help and am feeling like this isn’t going to work.

    • Please talk to your den leader and cubmaster and ask for assistance. By and large, packs will jump through immense hoops to help families who ask for it, but they have to know you need the help.

  6. I am here as a testament to the role scouting has played in my life. I joined scouting at 11 and shortly after I joined my father died. Through the years scouting had taught me many life long lessons that I feel I would not have received without scouting in my life. Today I became an Eagle Scout. The first one in my family. I’m proud to say that because of scouting, I am the person I am today. I will be forever greatful to scouting.

  7. This is what I was hoping for, for my boys. Unfortunately, the Pack that we belong to, does very little to reach out to single parents. In fact, the Cub Master told me she didn’t have any sympathy for me, because her mom was a single mom, and she did all she could for her kids. This was when we showed up late for the Pack Christmas party, because I am a Nurse, finishing off my shift, and was only able to get them to the last 30 minutes of a meeting. “What kind of mom does that”, I was told by the Cub Master. Meanwhile, my seven year old was crying because he was told he couldn’t play in the trampoline room, because the party was almost over. If this is how Boy Scouts work, we will have no part. No bridge for my sons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.