The harsh reality for foster children is that their childhood isn’t normal. Being removed from your home because of abuse or neglect and being placed somewhere with someone you don’t know is simply something most children don’t have to deal with. It sets them apart in a way that’s difficult to comprehend.
However, foster parents work hard to build a bridge back to normalcy. One way they attempt to do this is by providing the child in their care with the opportunity for a common childhood experience.
One such opportunity is summer camp, something we feel strongly about at Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS), an organization offering camp scholarships to children in foster care in New Jersey. FAFS gives children an opportunity to stay at an overnight camp for a week where they can have the time of their lives.
Foster Children And Summer Camp
Here are five important benefits of summer camp for foster children:
1) Summer camp is a chance for siblings to reunite.
While there has been a push by foster care agencies across the country to place siblings in the same foster home, the truth is that this isn’t always possible. Sometimes brothers and sisters are separated from one another. For a foster child, who is already dealing with unimaginable loss, the separation from a sibling who can relate and empathize during this traumatic period is devastating. Summer camp is an opportunity for siblings in separate foster homes to connect and bond. It’s a chance for brothers and sisters to create new, positive memories that they can carry with them through the tough days. More importantly, it’s a reminder that they are not alone.
2) Summer camp will help improve social skills.
Camp is a chance for foster children to interact with kids from all different kinds of backgrounds and cultures. Sharing cabins with strangers their own age is an occasion for foster children to develop friendships and create their own social circle that isn’t dependent on where they live or where they go to school. For foster children who may be suffering from low self-esteem due to the tragic circumstances of their removal, this is an opportunity for a boost in confidence.
3) Summer camp is a break from the routine
Sometimes escaping an environment, even temporarily, can be a much-needed breath of fresh air. Anyone who has ever taken a vacation after a difficult period in his or her life can attest to the restorative power of the break. For foster children, an escape from the routine of day-to-day life can be invigorating. Given that many children spend their days behind screens and gadgets, being outdoors at camp is a refreshing change of pace. Who knows, camp could even inspire a love of nature that would otherwise go undiscovered.
4) Summer camp is a healthy outlet for pent up energy
As anyone who has ever interacted with a child will tell you, kids have a lot of energy. Foster children are no different. What can tire out an adult out in an hour is merely a prologue to a child. The key is putting that energy to positive use. Nowhere is that easier to do than at camp. Whether it’s a kickball game, a long hike or rock climbing, foster children will have an opportunity to release their inexhaustible energy doing something fun.
5) Summer camp is chance at normalcy
For foster children, normal is not easy to come by. That’s why summer camp, an activity that millions of kids participate in annually across the country, is special. The crackling fire, the s’mores that leave faces covered in chocolate, and the friendships forged over tug of war are all rights of passage on the path to adulthood. For foster children who may often feel separated or alienated due to their circumstance, camp is an excellent opportunity to feel included in a positive experience. This shared memory of new friends and fireside tales can go a long way.