Summer news headlines are often filled with heartwarming stories about programs bringing children from orphanages around the world (the majority from Russia and Eastern Europe) to the U.S. to stay with American families and participate in camp programs. While the camp experience can be great fun for the kids and their host families, the goal of many of these programs is adoption.
Those interested in adopting an older child from a foreign country should be aware that there are many camp programs that offer families the opportunity to host a child in their home for 4 to 6 weeks prior to making the commitment to adopt.
Some families might be interested in just hosting with the expectation of assisting a child find a permanent placement; others might want to host a child with the idea of proceeding with an adoption at the end of the camp period. Most groups that organize camps are looking for both host and prospective adoptive families - with first preference being given to the latter.
If you are considering participating in a camp experience, there are several things to consider when deciding which agency or program to pursue:
Contact several camp programs to find out what costs are involved.
Is there a cost to you to host, or are costs covered by other sources?
If you continue on to adopt, is there an added cost for that adoption? (Ask what the cost for the adoption of an older child would be without the camp experience.)
Are you expected to do any fund-raising?
Is the camp offered at no expense to you, or are you expected to pay for the day camp here?
Must you arrange for a translator, or is one provided at no cost?
A Range of Costs
Some programs report their costs per camper at $4500 to $5000 per child, with the families covering some of the costs either for the camp itself, or later in added adoption fees. Others are reporting $1200 to $2000 from the same country. Some programs pass this cost along to the families; others do their own fund-raising to cover this added expense.
The best way to figure out if the reported cost is reasonable is to add it up:
Find out for yourself the cost of a child's ticket from the country of your choice.
The American visa will be about $65 dollars.
Medical insurance will be about $50 per month per child.
Passports are about $70 each.
There might be some expense for travel within the country to get to the international flight.
There will be expenses for one escort for each 6 to 10 children, depending on their ages (which will run higher for the airline), and approximately $100 per month for the escort's medical insurance.
Support for Your Family
Programs offer differ kinds and types of support. You will want to consider the following:
How far do you live from the offices of the program you would like to work with?
Can you call someone from the program at any hour if there is a problem?
What kind of support are they offering?
What advice or instruction is provided to the families before the children arrive?
Have you been prepared to face the common problems (and joys) that you might face in dealing with an older child?
Are there translators available to you, or must you locate such support yourself?
Are there contingency plans in place if your placement is not working out?
Bigger is not necessarily better
Placement rate is one indicator of success. Some of the smaller programs send 100% of their children home with an adoption plan in place. Some of the larger programs still have waiting children up to a year later. It stands to reason that it is easier and more effective to screen a smaller number of children for potential problems.
Adoption procedural issues
Is the program bringing over 50 children or 10? How will the number of children affect the processing time both here and abroad? Ask for the ability to contact several parents who adopted through the program and several who adopted an older child without going through a camp program. In some instances the waiting time is nearly doubled simply because of volume. This is true both here in the U.S. and in the country of origin if many of the children are coming from the same region.
Are the campers coming at a good time for you?
Most camps are held during the summer, but at least one agency has successfully brought children for a "school camp" in the fall and/or spring. What time of year works best for your family?
By choosing carefully, you should be able to find a legitimate, well-run, and well-supported camp program that suits your personal needs. This is a wonderful way to see if an older child might fit well into your family.
In the end, your choice might not be one of the larger programs. There are many small agencies that bring over 6 to 10 children in a group and give very personal service. It's important to enter into a camp situation well informed and well prepared.
Reader Experiences with the KidSave Program:
"We were a host/advocate through KidSave 'Summer Miracles' program. We personally worked with children from 2 separate regions and housed a total of 4 orphans. It was a rewarding and very successful program. All of our kids were set on the "adoption track" and we personally are adopting 2 children, much to our surprise. It is an awesome way to learn a lot about yourself, how your family dynamics will play out with foreign and additional children. Mostly, it is an excellent way to see that you have the capacity to love and nurture older children who would otherwise be 'forgotten'". Feel free to with questions." contributed by Ellen
"We had a very enjoyable experience. I believe KidSave would be considered one of the "larger groups" that was referred to in the article, but we are traveling next week and it's only the beginning of October. So the wait is no longer because of the size of the group. I think that KidSave is the only program that does not require a host family to have their homestudy done [in order to host a child]. This is attractive to some families because they may have not made the decision to adopt. Also, KidSave does not charge families to participate. They do ask families to help fundraise. This is great because adopting families keep the program going. Also, KidSave continues to advocate for the kids after they are gone and many of the 'smaller' groups do not." contributed by Anne
Summer and school year camp programs designed to bring older children and prospective adoptive families together. If you know of a summer and/or school year camp that should be listed here, please
Adventure USA Headquarters (Commonwealth Adoptions Intl): 4601 E. Ft. Lowell, Suite 200 Tucson, AZ 85712 Tel: (520) 327-7574 ~ Fax (520) 327-8640 Families may host school-age children from Russia, Colombia and China. Each country's program is a little different, due to requirements of the foreign governments. Web site: www.commonwealthadoption.org/adventureusa.xhtml
Bridge of Hope Headquarters (Cradle of Hope): 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 310 Silver Spring, MD 20910 Tel: (301) 587-4400 Summer programs in Eastern U.S. Web site: www.cradlehope.org/BOH/
Bright Futures Camp - Ethiopia Headquarters (Gladney Center for Adoption): 6300 John Ryan Drive Fort Worth, TX 76132-4122 Tel: 1-800-INT-ADOP Three 2-week summer programs (NY and TX locations) for Ethiopian children, ages 7-11. Web site: www.brightfuturescamp.com/ KidSave International Headquarters: 2122 P Street, NW Suite 302 Washington, DC 20037 Tel: (202) 331-1110 - (877) 330-1110 Summer programs around the U.S. Web site: www.kidsaveinternational.org
Family Hope International/IFS Headquarters (International Family Services): 700 S. Friendswood Drive, Suite B Friendswood, TX , 77546 Tel: (281) 992-4677 - (800) 619-8435 Summer & fall programs around the U.S. Web site: www.ifservices.org/phope.html
MAPS Russia Summer Program Headquarters (Maine Adoption Placement Service): 58 Pleasant Street Houlton, Maine 04730 Contact: Tel: (207) 775-4101 5-week summer program for pre-adoptive families in Maine, Massachusetts, and Atlanta, GA. Web site: www.mapsadopt.org/russia.html
Operation Hope Headquarters (Children's Hope International): 9229 Lackland Road St. Louis, MO 63114 Tel: (314) 890-0086 Fax: (314) 427-4288 Spring & summer programs around the U.S. Web site: http://www.childrenshope.com/OpHope2003_1.htm