Summer at Kinship Center is a time for therapeutic camp experiences for adoptive, foster, and relative children around the state, and none was more special than the first-ever “Camp Kinnect,” brainchild of some Southern California Kinship Center staff.

A new partnership between Kinship Center and Los Angeles County, the camp was conceived to help teens in public foster care realize the importance of connections. This June four dozen young people ages 12-17 enjoyed a full day of outdoor fun and adventure with a ropes course, ziplines, an obstacle course, bungee jumping, camp races, photo and tatoo booths, and a popular hip hop group as they discovered how to interact successfully with others, and build relationships.

On hand to support the learning process were experienced counselors, volunteers and local families interested in being a loving, supportive adult in the life of a child. A motivational speaker provided a special workshop on how to tell your personal story to build connections with others.

Camp organizer Kim Felder, a longtime Kinship Center staff member who recruits dozens of adoptive families each year for the county’s hardest-to-place children and teens, was moved by the day’s events. “One of the most powerful parts of camp was the evening campfire when children wrote their fears on a piece a paper and then put them into the fire. Most of the fears were about being alone and not finding a family of their own. This was especially meaningful because many of these kids had been telling their social workers they had no interest in adoption.”

Some of the 50,000 children in California’s foster care system will reach age 18 without a permanent family. Whatever the future holds for the Camp Kinnect participants, each of them took away a new perspective on how to build connections with others that will sustain them through life. They also took away a teddy bear signed by members of the dance troupe. “But the dance troupe also took away bears signed by the kids,” said Felder. “The dancers said the kids were their heroes.”

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