Finding families to participate starts with outreach to the many agencies that offer HIV, chemical dependency or family support services. By reaching out to these agencies, we have built a relationships with both the program directors and the front line case managers. Strong relationships with referral agencies also ensure that camp continues to evolve in order to address issues relevant to our families’ ongoing struggles.
The Birch Family Camp has always operated on fundraised dollars and there has never been a fee for families to attend. However, we have had funding arrangements with agencies such as the United Way; who has helped provide services and help to reduce overlaps in service delivery.
What Is An “Appropriate” Family?
• Someone in the family must be HIV positive – parent, child or both.
• Families must be referred by their treating agency case manager, social worker or physician.
• The parent(s) must bring only the children who are in their legal care, which ensures that they have the ability to make medical or legal decisions on the children’s behalf.
In the early spring, agencies and clinics are invited to seek applications for their clients. Where possible, we like to work with social workers, doctor, nurses, or case managers in order to further emphasize that the Birch Family Camp is a therapeutic modality and not merely a vacation. Where families have heard of camp by word of mouth and contact us for applications, we in turn refer them to their social workers/case managers. After an application is received and completed, the Family Service Coordinator makes an appointment to meet new applicant families in their home. This allows families to put a human face to the camp program and begin the delicate process of building trust. It allows our staff to meet all the family members in person and to answer any questions they have about camp, while learning about the children’s likes/dislikes/routines from them directly. Lastly we are able to see the family in their own environment and to get an understanding of the neighborhood/housing situation, whether they will need assistance in having the clothing/toiletry items necessary to be at camp for a week, and to be sure we can manage the family’s special needs, if any (i.e. mobility, psychiatric or other emotional issues).
The Long Wait
Following the home visit, a family will receive an acceptance package, including a suggested packing list, and offers of help in getting ready. It is then that the long wait begins. Through out this time, we are in touch with the families, asking if they need help, and offering our assistance however we can.