Navigating Summer With Youth in Foster Care
Last updated: July 21, 2023, at 10:15 a.m. PT
Originally published: June 20, 2023, at 9:17 a.m. PT
Summer is on its way, bringing with it the need to keep kids engaged with enriching experiences. But what about foster youth? Whether you are already a foster parent or are considering becoming one, it can be uniquely challenging to find appropriate resources during the summer. So, let’s explore the importance of creating a routine, navigating the world of summer camps, and different ways to pay for it all.
Plan Ahead - Think About Routine
If you are licensed with the Y, talk to your case manager first. They’ll help you put together a plan for summer. Why is a plan so important? Because maintaining a consistent routine, especially for those in foster care who have experienced trauma, creates predictability and structure that provides a sense of mental safety.
A good plan for the summer includes activities, camps, and enough flexibility to accommodate the many visits and meetings youth in care have. Be proactive in signing them up for camps, as they tend to fill up quick.
Did you know youth in foster care receive a free Y membership at any local branch in the Greater Seattle area? And if your family is licensed with the Y, then your whole household receives a free Y membership to your local branch! Heading down to the Y is a great way to create “structured free time” for kids, with things like basketball, swimming, or Kids Zone. Check out your local Y’s schedule!
Is Summer Camp Right for Your Kid?
Answering that question is going to mean asking a few of your own. Be sure to discuss their specific needs and preferences with their support team to determine if a particular camp or activity is a good fit. Start by consulting their social worker. Obtain their approval before making any arrangements, especially for overnight camps, then ask your kid about their interests and involve them in the process.
- What does their schedule with service providers look like?
- Do they have regular therapy appointments or family visitations? How do they get along with others? Do they thrive better in larger or smaller group settings?
- Do they have any allergies?
- Do you have a backup plan in place for if they have to go home early? We all know kids get sick and have hard days sometimes, and knowing what you’ll do if and when that happens is crucial. Be prepared to pick them up from camp early, whether it is a day or overnight camp, and know it is especially likely you’ll need to do that if they are new to attending camps. At times, due to their trauma history, foster youth may experience stressors more intensely and so may need additional support from their caregivers or support team. What will that support look like?
- If you are unsure about any of the above, check in with your Y case manager and the youth’s support team.
Finding Summer Camps
We also won’t get jealous if you look elsewhere! Consider the Boys and Girls Club, which offers free summer camp to youth in foster care in the King County area. Reach out to your local club for information about their application process.
Want more choices? Find a comprehensive directory of summer camps in Washington state at MySummerCamps.com. Also, check out organizations like Treehouse that provide a Summer Camp Finder tool to help you match unique interests, needs, and ages with day, overnight, and specialized camps.
And speaking of specialized camps, there are several dedicated to serving youth in foster care! These camps aim to create a safe and supportive environment where children with similar life experiences can bond and form connections. For instance, Camp To Belong organizes programs that reunite siblings separated by foster care placements. Other camps like Royal Family Kids' Camp focus on providing healing experiences for children who have endured abuse or neglect. If you’re licensed with the Y, your case manager would be happy to help find a good fit and our team is constantly being made aware of new camps!
Scholarships and Financial Assistance
Financial constraints don’t have to stand in the way of summer camp. Various organizations like Treehouse offer scholarships and financial assistance, and many camps offer sliding-scale fees (including the YMCA) for foster families. So, be sure to ask during the application process.
The Y’s Child Placing Agency collaborates with community partners to provide financial assistance, explore transportation assistance, and other essential resources to make summer camp experiences accessible for youth in foster care. And we are constantly expanding our partnerships!
Let's plan ahead. Let’s have these conversations, create consistent routines, find summer camps that are a great fit and financial assistance to make sure everyone can have a great summer.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent or advocating for kids in foster care, subscribe to our monthly newsletter or reach out to our team by filling in this simple form.