What you and your adopted child can expect at a culture camp
As adoption has become more common and open, so have summer “culture camps” catering to adoptees and their families. What are the benefits of attending a culture camp with your adopted child? According to Pam Sweetser, executive director of the Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families (HCAF), there are many. Here are some of them:
- Adopted children get to be with other kids who are “like them,” both in terms of being adopted and also having the same heritage. The counselors, who typically are young-adult adoptees from the same culture as the participants, serve as wonderful role models.
- The children participate in dancing, art, music, cooking, and other cultural activities from their home regions, providing them with a sense of who they are and where they come from, knowledge that is often lacking for the internationally adopted child. This identity building, says Sweetser, is crucial in the development of adopted children.
- At family camps, parents get to spend time with other parents who really “get it.” This is huge for most adoptive parents, as we often feel isolated in our lifestyles and parenting choices. Many families return to camp year after year, citing the connection with other adoptive families as an important reason for doing so. Often, camp families maintain connections throughout the year, providing another source of support for all.
- Parents also receive invaluable training in a number of areas at camp. While children are being cared for by their counselors, parents may attend workshops on adoption-related issues (such as interracial concerns, identity formation, behavioral challenges, and how trauma impacts a child’s development). Parents can also learn about their child’s place of origin and how to cook popular dishes from their child’s place of birth.
- According to Sweetser, approximately 25% of the families who attend HCAF camps are single-parent families, mostly moms. The camps provides much-needed support for Solo Moms who are raising adopted children and, potentially, ongoing friendships.
How to find a culture camp for your family
Because there are different kinds of culture camps, you will want to spend some time looking for the one that’s best for your family. The camps vary in location (being held all over the country), pricing, and structure. They also will have different “flavors”: some are run by religious organizations; others are secular. In addition, if you are looking for a family camp, you might want to ask the organizers how many Solo Moms attend their camp. The website camps.adoption.com lists a number of culture camps in the United States.
Some camps are child-only; your child will attend without you. Others (such as HCAF’s camps) are for the entire family, including non-adopted siblings. Most culture camps focus on a particular home region, such as Korea or China. HCAF offers camps for children from 10 different regions each summer, as well as a Domestic Adoption Camp and an Adult Adoptee Retreat.
Attending a culture camp can be a powerful way to expand understanding of your child’s native culture and develop meaningful relationships, all while having a fun adventure!
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com
Beki Sciacca helps parents who are raising challenging children by training them in a relationship-based, trauma-effective parenting model. She has a master’s degree in Communication Science and Disorders and has become the Solo Mom of her two amazing grandchildren.
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