There is a path for the Boy Scouts of America to take after bankruptcy. However, the organization faces challenges in mending its reputation and financial situation due to its legacy regarding sexual abuse.
Most sections of a compensation plan were approved last week by a bankruptcy court. The plan involves $2.5 billion or more. The plan would put an end to the Scouts’ chapter 11 bankruptcy case, resolving about 82,000 individual sexual abuse claims. Leaving chapter 11 would protect the Boy Scouts from future sexual abuse lawsuits, and test if the Scouts can still attract families despite their past inability to protect kids.
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The Scouts’ bankruptcy case was the biggest, most complicated chapter 11 case ever filed in order to resolve multiple sexual abuse claims. Letters were written by the hundreds by survivors to bankruptcy court, detailing accounts of how lives were impacted by sexual abuse and recounting how they felt about the bankruptcy proceedings.
Scouting families and communities eventually received news about the courtroom proceedings involving survivors of abuse and the Boy Scouts, and doubts surfaced about the Scouts as they tried to produce settlements. Now, the Scouts are nearing an emergence from bankruptcy, low on funds but still in possession of property and adventure camps. The Scouts are looking for a chance for a new beginning, but long-term challenges remain due to a decline in membership.
It won’t be easy for the Boy Scouts to earn back respect and trust, and it could take decades. The Scouts will likely need to do much more than just apologize and campaign.
The bankruptcy plan protects the Scouts’ approximately 250 local councils from future lawsuits regarding sexual abuse, and keeps recruitment pipelines safe from religious and civil partner groups.
The group and its local councils are contributing about $800 to the plan. Insurance company and troop sponsor contributions bring the amount of compensation for victims to over $2.5 billion. There was an earlier total of about $2.7 billion, but a $250 million settlement involving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was struck down by Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein, who declined to give the group releases shielding it from future sexual abuse lawsuits.
The Scouts are responsible for $239 million or more in expenses and professional fees through June, according to court filings, and this number will increase as the bankruptcy case continues to go on. Money in the Scouts’ books is falling, dropping to about $32.7 million in June.
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The Scouts have apologized for their past failures to protect children, and have noted that most sexual abuse claims came before the group put in place protocols to protect children about 30 years ago. The Scouts have noted efforts to improve the safety of scouting, noting that its protocols are stronger than that of other, comparable nonprofit groups that are focused on youth. Each interaction between Scouts and adult volunteers need to involve at least two adults.
Some parents and advocates for child safety still have their doubts about scouting. Many parents have concerns about how safe scouting is, and some don’t even know the Boy Scouts still exist.
The Scouts estimate they will have 1.4 million members by 2025, but that this number would be 1.9 million had the COVID-19 pandemic not happened.
The Scouts have expanded their reach in the last decade to try to reverse a membership decline. The group started to allow membership for boys who are openly gay in 2014, and for transgender children in 2017, and also started allowing girls into core youth programming in 2017. Scouting is now composed of ten to 15 percent of females.