Summer time! For many families, it is a time of summer vacation; trips to the beach, a visit to relatives, a day spent at an amusement park, and
summer camp for the kids. Summer is also a time where families come together, spending quality time, as well as quantity time with each other.
However, for children in foster care, it can also be a time of emptiness, loneliness, and inactivity. Many children in care have never had a “summer
vacation” before coming into care. Perhaps their biological family was unable to provide that trip to the beach. Perhaps these children in need never
attended a summer camp beforehand. Perhaps there simply was not anyone around to play with, or even to talk to.
Being a foster parent has many rewards. One of these is the chance to give children in foster care new experiences; experiences that can be found
during summer time and school vacations. To be sure, these vacation periods allow for children in care to not only experience some things for the
very first time, but also are opportunities for growth, for healing, for learning, and for some children in care, the first real occasion to laugh and simply
“be a kid”.
When one thinks summer vacation from school, one usually thinks of a family trip. Taking a foster child on a summer vacation can be an incredibly
rewarding experience for the child. For one, it allows the child to have the opportunity to create some special memories that he might not have had
otherwise. For the child, it might be the first time he travels on an airplane, visited the beach or ocean, went camping and spent the night sleeping in
a tent, or enjoyed some time at an amusement park. Indeed, vacations allow children in care the chance to see new places and try new things.
Vacations are also times when families are able to bond together as a family unit. Certainly, many children in care have difficulty forming healthy
relationships with others, including their foster family. A family vacation is an opportunity for foster families to grow closer, and allows the child the
opportunity to break down some of the emotional walls and barriers he has built inside of himself.
If a foster family plans on taking their foster child on vacation with them, it is important that the child’s case worker be notified. Along with this, foster
parents should seek the permission of the case worker. If the child is taken over state lines, many times foster parents will also need the permission
of the child’s birth parents. Case workers can help with this by obtaining this permission. Foster parents should obtain permission, by both case
worker and birth parents, in writing or documentation of some kind, just to be safe. Finally, before leaving on vacation with the child, ensure that the
case worker has the contact information and phone numbers of the foster family, in case any emergency should arise.
Summer camps are a part of many an American child’s summer ritual. For children in foster care, there are some camps particularly designed to meet
their needs. One of the more popular of these is the Royal Family Kids program. Currently serving five percent of America’s foster children, this year
Royal Family Kids camps plan on over 7,000 campers attend, bringing the total to over 80,000 to date in the United States alone. Children attending
camp must be between the ages of six to twelve years of age, and have a record of some sort of Social Service need in order to attend. For foster
parents, it is a five day respite from care, with a minimal cost to for the child to attend.
The camps are sponsored by faith based organizations that host the week long adventure. These organizations connect with and receive the foster
children from various social services and child welfare organizations in their area. Along with this, these faith based sponsors find a campground to
rent for the week, recruit and train adult volunteers who act as chaperones and mentors, and raise money to pay for the entire week long experience.
As the camps are filled with children in need, volunteers must be trained to handle the many challenges that may occur not only throughout the week,
but throughout each day. Volunteers fill out a four page application, along with references, background checks, and a thirty minute interview with a
RFK panel. Once accepted, a volunteer attends twelve hours of training, ranging from such topics as child abuse, behavior, team building and camp
logistics. Training takes many forms, and includes lecture, observation, and interaction. As these are children in need and under foster care, RFK is
selective with their volunteers, in order to make sure that the needs and demands of the individual child are met. Indeed, the role of the camp
counselor is most important, and the ratio of adult to child is one to two.