IRVING, Texas -- On Wednesday the Boy Scouts of America's board of directors announced that it would welcome girls into its Cub Scouts program and begin a program for older girls that allows them to earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.

Officials say the historic decision came after families and girls had asked to join the organization for many years.

“This decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women,” Michael Surbaugh, the BSA’s chief scout executive, said. “We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children. We strive to bring what our organization does best – developing character and leadership for young people – to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”

Starting next year, families can sign up sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs can choose whether or not to "establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens, or remain an all-boy pack," the Boy Scouts of America said.

Cub Scout dens will be single-gender -- either all girls or all boys -- but will use the same curriculum.

"This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families," the Boy Scouts said.

The new program for older girls that will let them become an Eagle Scout will be available starting in 2019.

The Boy Scouts of America have offered co-ed programs since 1971 through its Exploring and Venturing program and its STEM Scout pilot program, but girls hadn't been let into the Cub Scouts until now.

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