YWCA Central Alabama has 32 AmeriCorps members serving in areas supporting the homeless population, social justice initiatives, child care and after-school enrichment, girl’s and women’s leadership, domestic violence services, persons with disabilities, housing and economic development.
Likened to the domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is an opportunity for men and women to serve their communities and make an impact, while also receiving invaluable training and development. Each YWCA AmeriCorps member devotes 1,720 hours a year to serving these programs and volunteering with agencies benefiting the metro-Birmingham area. Members continue to further our vision of creating a more caring community and achieving positive changes in the lives of individuals and families whom we serve.
One way nine AmeriCorps members served their community this summer was with Children’s Aid Society, through their Alabama Pre and Post Adoption Connections (APAC) program to staff Camp APAC – a four-day camp held each year for adopted children ages 9 through 18.
Camp APAC is a fun-filled, challenging and nurturing camp experience for adopted children and their siblings where campers get the opportunity to spend time with other kids who have similar backgrounds. It mirrors other summer camps and includes typical camp type activities such as swimming, ropes course elements, tubing and other water activities, nature walks, sports and games.
“Camp APAC gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of how the foster care system and the adoption process work. I never knew how stressful the process can be on a child as well as on the family that is involved,” says Brannette Marshall, YWCA AmeriCorps Member. “I learned that these children need a lot of attention and love and that it takes a really special person to be a foster or adoptive parent.”
Adopted children often feel isolated due to the absence of adopted peers. Adopted adults frequently express feeling “different” and lonely all their lives due to the lack of being around other individuals and families with adoption experiences. Camp APAC is designed to give children the opportunity to be around an entire group of children who are either adopted or who live in families with adopted siblings.
This environment provides a normalizing experience for children who verbalize their pleasure in being around other children “just like me.” This experience is equally important for foster and biological siblings in the family. Special needs adopted children have the additional opportunity to normalize having “special needs.” When children feel normal, they feel safe. When they feel safe, they often verbalize their true feelings.
Some may have never been able to share or even acknowledge the sense of loss they felt as children who lived with non-biological families. Camp APAC facilitates a support network for campers who can continue to communicate with other camper adoptees long after camp ends. And finally, camp provides parents with a welcome respite from their children and the daily challenges they present!
The YWCA’s Building Communities, Bettering Lives AmeriCorps Program is possible because of a grant from CNCS and support from Serve Alabama: The Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service.
To learn more information about Children’s Aid Society or Camp APAC click here.
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