Thursday, August 2, 2012
Imagine a weekend filled with swimming, rock climbing and horseback riding. Sounds like any kid’s dream vacation.
However, this camp trip is even more special for foster children because they are reuniting with their brothers and sisters who are in different foster homes.
This camp trip is special for foster children, because they are reuniting with their brothers and sisters who are in different foster homes.
Today, nearly 90 kids arrived at the four-day Camp Connect, a program organized by San Diego County Child Welfare Services. This year’s reunion is the largest since the camp trip started five years ago.
Margo Fudge, program manager with Camp Connect, said although it’s the county’s priority to place siblings together in foster homes, it is not always possible.
“But we live in a very large county and sometimes transportation is an issue or other things may come up where the children don’t see each other on a regular basis,” she said. “So, our program is designed to make sure those children have the opportunity to see each other.”
She said more time siblings spend together brings higher self-esteem, greater placement stability and better performance in school.
“For anybody that has a brother or sister, most of us know how important that relationship is to us and how it just makes sense that these kids get to see each other as much as possible,” said Fudge.
In addition, she said foster children who connect with their siblings are less likely to become incarcerated or homeless.
Social workers who work across county programs send in applications to have children referred to be a part of the camp. Fudge said the camp is appropriate for children between the ages of six and 19.
The camp activities promote bonding. At the end of their stay, children are able to take home “memorabilia” like a scrapbook filled with pictures of their siblings. Fudge said the highlight of the weekend is the talent show on Saturday where the brothers and sisters support each other.
More than 80 volunteers are helping at the camp, from county employees with backgrounds in child welfare to community members who are therapists or psychologists.
Fudge said she’s connected with several of the repeat camp goers, but the fact that they come back means they aren’t living with their siblings.
“While it’s nice to see the kids again, and I myself have bonded with many of them, but it’s a bit bittersweet because that just means they still aren’t placed with their siblings,” she said. “So it’s a bit sad that you see them come back year after year.”
The county also arranges to take these foster siblings to SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo, among other activities.