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Camp Connect provides opportunity for foster children to re-connect with siblings

BALTIMORE COUNTY (JUNE 17, 2011) All too often, when children enter foster care they lose important connections not only with their school, neighborhood and friends, but with their brothers and sisters as well.  Baltimore County Department of Social Services (DSS) understands the importance of maintaining family connections and they use many strategies to maintain ties.  One such strategy is Camp Connect.

 Camp Connect is Maryland’s overnight camp that reunifies siblings separated in foster care for a memorable week of new experiences, fun, and a bit of adventure.  The goal of the camp experience is to promote sibling bonds that will last far longer than their stay in our foster care system. 

 For the 11th year, Camp Connect will welcome 60 campers representing foster children ages 6 – 18 from various local departments from around the state.  Camp counselors are all volunteers from local departments of social services, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Legal Aid, Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY), and other community organizations concerned about the welfare of children.

 Among the unique aspects of Camp Connect is that children are grouped according to sibling groups rather than by age.  Two or three sibling groups make up “Family Groups” who spend the week together participating in each of the activities.  While attempts are made to put Family Groups together by age, invariably some very young children prefer to be with an older sibling. 

 Camp Connect is modeled after Camp to Belong, a camp and sibling advocacy program based in Colorado that is a trailblazer in hosting foster children and their siblings.  Camp to Belong was founded by Lynn Price, who was herself a foster child who grew up in care apart from her sister.  From  

 1997 to 1999, Baltimore County DSS sent children and volunteer staff  to Camp to Belong before collaborating with Lynn and Camp to Belong to start Maryland’s program in 2000. 

 The Baltimore County DSS is a field office of Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) the state’s social service provider.  DHR collaborates with 24 local jurisdictions to: provide foster care, adoption, and protective services to children; collect and distribute child support payments; provide protective services, case- management, supportive housing, in-home aide services, and respite care to vulnerable adults; and provide temporary cash, food stamps, and medical assistance to families.  It also funds programs for homeless persons, refugees, and migrant workers.  Last year, DHR served over one million people in need.  In terms of its annual budget, DHR is Maryland’s fifth largest state agency.

 

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Filed in: Baltimore County, Child Welfare

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