When Mary’s foster children found out they would be taking a field trip with their YMCA camp, it was all they talked about for days. Mary had no trouble waking the seven and eight-year-olds at 6:15 a.m. to make sure they would arrive on time to board the bus for their hiking and swimming adventure.
After the trip, the children spoke of butterflies and the caring adults who answered their many questions. Neither had ever been hiking before. “They had no complaints,” their foster mother of two years said with a laugh. “They were upset with me for picking them up.”
These children are immersed in enriching outdoor and academic activities five days a week for six weeks as participants in the Power Scholars program. The services are provided free of charge to a small group of children who are receiving Child Protective Services (CPS) through a generous donation from the YMCA of Superior California. Four children attend the rigorous, six-week Power Scholars program; and six children attend a one-week traditional day camp.
Since 2002, this partnership between CPS and the YMCA has given 334 children the opportunity to attend programs their foster families could not otherwise afford, according to Susan DuBoise, Special Projects Volunteer for the Department of Health and Human Services. DuBoise coordinates the application process between CPS social workers, who reach out to interested families, and the YMCA.
The purpose of the program is to prep kids for success and leadership roles upon their return to school in the fall, while still packing in plenty of summer fun.
Mary has observed numerous benefits; “I’ve noticed my seven-year-old reading everything,” she said.
She also noted the important bonding taking place among her foster children and other kids in the program, who are eager to see each other each day. Between interacting with friends, receiving a healthy dose of reading and math instruction, drawing, eating snacks, and taking field trips, there’s no chance the children will slip into the boredom that can accompany long stretches of unstructured summer days.
The day camp also provides an indirect service to busy foster parents: time to take care of errands like grocery shopping or doctors’ appointments while the children are in good hands.
Mary, who has taken children into her home on and off for more than 20 years, said the partnership between CPS and the YMCA is the first of its kind she has seen. She hoped that more foster kids would be able to attend in the future and has already spread the word to families she knows.
She will definitely apply on behalf of her children again next year. “The number one benefit for me is that it challenges them. It has them continuing to do academic things and problem-solving at home.”
Note: Last names excluded to protect the family’s privacy.
Writer: Janelle Weiner