Among all his childhood lessons, Charles Chambers remembers one most vividly. “Above all, my parents treated people with respect. They taught me that when you respect people, you earn their respect in return,” says Chambers, who is Director of Kinship Center’s ‘Family Ties’ program in Monterey County. The program provides critical support for grandparents and other relatives who have unexpectedly taken on the care of children whose parents are on drugs, in jail or otherwise not present in their lives. Part of that support is specialized camps for the children, most of who are struggling to heal from their past trauma.

“Respect is a big part of our camp program,” says Chambers. “The week-long experiential camp at Toro Park this month taught children how to work together as a team, how to cooperate, and how to communicate and be respectful to each other while they’re learning about nature. These are life skills most of the children we work with have not had the chance to learn.” Funding for the camp has been provided for the past four years by Garcia Boxing of Salinas, CA. Other community supporters give their time to bring outdoor skills and education to the young campers.

The Family Ties camp program is called “Mattie’s Science Camp” for Chambers’ mother, who spent much of her life working with young people with special needs.  “In addition to years of involvement in 4-H, Girl Scouts and other programs, Mattie was a mom in a group home for children. And later, she and my dad Frank were house parents in a home for pregnant teens. Their compassion and respect were lifelong lessons for me,” says Chambers. “We try to help the relative caregivers we work with to understand these life lessons so they can reinforce what the children are learning. And that includes showing respect for the children’s birth families, especially in the occasional case where a child may have the chance to be reunited with a parent.”

For the 300 or more local families who receive services each month from Family Ties, the support is a lifeline, says Chambers. Many caregivers are seniors on fixed incomes with few resources to care for children who bring the scars of abuse or neglect. The program provides hands-on training and counseling, many kinds of support, and access to community resources that help these new families be successful.

For more information about Kinship Center’s Family Ties Relative Caregiver Program, click here.

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