Many of Maryland’s minors are separated from their siblings, living miles apart in different homes. Some of these minors are separated by the state’s foster care system, while others are separated by divorce and adoption. Advocates believe that separating siblings could have “lifelong consequences.”
The Baltimore County Department Social Services promotes a program that permits the separated siblings to come together for one week each summer. This extraordinary opportunity permits children to bond with their siblings, enjoy outdoor activities and experience life as normal as possible.Camp Connect is now in its 17th year and still going strong. Twenty sibling groups had the opportunity to spend time at the Manidokan Camp and Retreat Center in southwestern Frederick County. The siblings, from eight different Maryland counties were provided quality, uninterrupted time together.
The foster care system does whatever is necessary to avoid separating siblings, but sometimes it is out of their control. An administrator for foster care and adoption services and unofficial camp director, Judith Schagrin, said biological and foster family considerations sometimes hinders the decision.
Schagrin said the goal is always try to reunite families, but until then Camp Connect’ objective is “to promote sibling bonds that will last far longer than the children’s stay in our foster care system.”
On Monday, 55 campers ranging from 6 to 18 years of age arrived at the retreat to begin a fun-filled, family adventure like no other. The campers will depart the 426-acre retreat early Sunday morning.
Camp Connect is financially supported by a federal grant and state contributions. Children are chosen from eight different jurisdictions in Maryland, including Baltimore and Harford, Prince George’s, Frederick and Baltimore counties. This year, most of the campers originated from Baltimore County.
Since its launch in 2000, Camp Connect met at a site in New Freedom, Pennsylvania and for the past two years it has met as Manidokan.
Campers enjoyed an array of experience including, scavenger hunts, flag football games, makeup and hairstyling night, whitewater rafting, swimming and arts and crafts, along with a camp-wide birthday bash.
On Sunday morning, the children will hop into a van and return to their usual lives.