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Camp Connect Celebrates 15 Years of Connecting Maryland Siblings

Baltimore County, Maryland —June 23 to 28, Camp Connect, celebrates 15 years of reuniting siblings separated in foster care. This year, 22 sibling groups ranging in age from six to 18, will be coming from eight Maryland jurisdictions to be reunited at a week-long overnight camp. The camp began in 2000 by a group of volunteers working with the Baltimore County Department of Social Services (BCoDSS).

“All too often, when children enter foster care, they lose not just their mother and father, but brothers and sisters as well, even if temporarily” said Mark Millspaugh, Deputy Director of the BCoDSS. “Camp Connect reunites Maryland siblings separated in foster care for a week of new experiences, fun and a bit of adventure.”

Modeled after Camp to Belong, a camp and sibling advocacy program based in Colorado, Camp Connects goal is to cultivate life-long positive memories, according to Judith Schagrin, Assistant Director for the BCoDSS Division of Children’s Services and unofficial Camp Director.

“We aim for a week that promotes sibling bonds and offers new, memorable experiences for family members,” said Schagrin. “We hope these important memories far outlast their stay in our foster care system.”

Campers are grouped by sibling groups not ages. The “counselors,” are all volunteers, including caseworkers, attorneys and administrators who hail from agencies and organizations dedicated to the welfare of children. They are routinely joined by former campers, who return repeatedly to donate their time as counselors.
Activities include horseback riding, biking, tubing, swimming, arts and crafts, campfires, field trips to places such as Hershey Park and evening entertainment that includes a professional juggler, learning African dancing and more.

Schagrin said the best way to get a sense of the camp is to speak with a camper or counselor and she welcomes inquiries from members of the media who may wish to interview former campers. Or, you could get a sense by the attached artwork and the comments of a camper, nicknamed Fatz.

“At the final night’s evening campfire, we asked each camper to share how they felt about the week,” said Schagrin. “One of the most touching was Fatz, who thanked the staff, not just for the time he spent with his sisters, but for something he thought he’d never have again…the chance to be a child.”

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The Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promotes well-being among individuals and families by providing quality health, housing and social services. Along with an administrative unit, HHS is comprised of the Departments of Health and Social Services. The HHS headquarters is in the Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road. For more information, go to: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/agencies/hhs/index.html.

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