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Date: Jun 16, 2017

Baltimore County Department of Social Services works to reunite brothers and sisters

From June 19 to 25, Camp Connect celebrates 17 years of reuniting siblings separated in foster care. This year 20 sibling groups ranging in age from six to eighteen will be coming from seven Maryland jurisdictions to be reunited at a week-long overnight camp. Baltimore County Department of Social Services (BCoDSS) began the camp in 2000, relying heavily upon a group of volunteer counselors.

“All too often, when children enter foster care, they lose not just their mother and father, but brothers and sisters as well, even if temporarily,” said Mark Millspaugh, Deputy Director of the BCoDSS. “Camp Connect reunites Maryland siblings separated in foster care for a week of new experiences, fun and a bit of adventure.”

Modeled after Camp to Belong, a camp and sibling advocacy program based in Colorado, Camp Connect’s goal is to cultivate life-long positive memories, according to Judith Schagrin, Assistant Director for the BCoDSS Division of Children’s Services and unofficial Camp Director.

“We aim for a week that promotes sibling bonds and offers new, memorable experiences for family members,” said Schagrin. “We hope these important memories far outlast their stay in our foster care system.”

Campers are grouped with siblings, not by age. The “counselors,” are all volunteers, including social workers, attorneys, administrators, CASA volunteers and others who hail from agencies and organizations dedicated to the welfare of children. They are routinely joined by former campers, who return repeatedly to donate their time as counselors.

Activities include horseback riding, biking, white-water rafting, swimming, arts and crafts, campfires, field trips to places such as an amusement park and evening entertainment that includes a talent show, professional juggler, learning African dancing and more.

Schagrin said the best way to get a sense of the camp is to speak with a camper or counselor and she welcomes inquiries from members of the media who may wish to interview former campers. “At the final night’s evening campfire, we asked each camper to share how they felt about the week,” said Schagrin. “One of the most touching was one camper, who thanked the staff, not just for the time he spent with his sisters, but for something he thought he’d never have again…the chance to be a child.” 

Revised October 16, 2020               
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