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Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families

We accomplish our mission by facilitating events which provide culturally relevant and family-​centered experiences for every member of the family. These events provide individuals and families with both a deeper sense of community and an individual identity.

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HCAF Webinars

Class

Education 

Beneficiaries

Ethnic/Racial Minorities
Families
Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender
Parents
People/Families with of People with Psychological Disabilities

Description

In 2020 HCAF began offering educational webinars to parents of adopted children, adoptees, and the broader community. The webinars included topics such as Black Identity, Asian/American Identity, Latinx Identity, Fetal Acohol Syndrome Disorder, Gender & Sexuality, Adoption, Attachment, etc. These have been well attended and well received webinars which we plan to continue into next year as a service to our community and as a new revenue stream for the organization.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

Who I Am

Class

Youth Development 

Beneficiaries

Female Youth/Adolescents (14 - 19 years)
Male Youth/Adolescents (14 - 19 years)
Ethnic/Racial Minorities
European Heritage
Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender

Description

Who I Am™ - for middle school campers

Who I Am™ is a strength-​based, positive, cultural discussion developed specifically for middle school students. Who I Am™ examines the social aspects of identity and bi-​cultural identity in group discussion and games. The skilled facilitator, Taryn Campbell assists adolescents in further understanding their identity and answering the prevalent question of the age, "where do I fit in?"

Who I Am™ also addresses the group dynamics of middle school, including bullying. Who I Am™ teaches appropriate, healthy coping-​skills to utilize in order for pre-​teens to feel empowered, self-​confident, and authentic.

Each adolescent creates a self-​symbol, an artistic expression of identity, to remind them throughout the year of the skills learned, the positive supportive community of camp, and that they do indeed fit in.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

To be updated in the future as the program progresses.

This is Me

Class

Youth Development 

Beneficiaries

Asian/Pacific Islander
Blacks
Hispanics
Young Adults (20-25 years)
Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

Description

This is Me - for High School Campers

This is Me™ was developed by Fran Campbell of the Filipino-​American community and currently President of the Colorado Asian Chamber of Commerce, specifically for Heritage Camps of Adoptive Families. This is Me™ is a unique set of activities for high school teens that seek to assist them in the development of a positive bicultural identity. The need to establish a bicultural identity emerges most strongly for adopted youth during adolescence and young adulthood.

This sense of self or "identity" is multi-​faceted and very personal for each adoptee. It is not simple, but beautifully complex, having pieces of their birth culture as well as the experience growing up in a community where their racial/cultural group is not widely represented.

Why is This is Me™ important?

In November of 2009, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute published a groundbreaking study titled, "Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity formation in Adoption." Several recommendations from this report are worth noting by parents, counselors and educators, but we agree with that there is a need for not only strategies that promote cultural socialization, but experiences that give adoptees additional support on "racial and cultural identification, and comfort".

Adoptees often share that they feel different: not like the people they have met from their birth country, and not like people they know who were born in the United States. We believe that the task of parents and educators is to help adoptees explore how they are uniquely from two cultures. This bicultural identity needs to be defined by each of them with support from other adoptees, parents, and other family members during their Heritage Camp experience.

At each camp, members of the appropriate cultural/racial community lead these workshops with Fran at the helm, to ask and answer culturally specific questions, find out what makes a culture what it is, talk about how and where our adoptees can fit in, and role play situations they may encounter as they leave the relative safety of home and community to go to college, or into the work environment, etc.

This is Me™ has been a valuable way for our cultural community members to interact with the high school campers that is honest and meaningful, sharing their own experiences growing up in another culture and trying to fit in. There are many similarities that have nothing to do with being adopted, but simply with being of another race or culture than the majority.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

Anecdotal evidence from participants, facilitators, and parents, such as the following from the Reeca Heritage Camp:

"Overall, I think this was one of the most powerful programs I have seen at REECA for our kids. Our Russian panel was very motivated and involved in the process as well as the group discussion. The program itself went very well, and I was pleased that the teens were very attentive and involved in the discusion. We started with introductions of the panel members and all the members of the teen group. Each person shared how long they had been in the US, and where they were born. I think this was the first time that all the HS kids heard their shared adoption history. It was very moving to me and to the kids. I think they really "got" how they all share the same adoption and Russian birth.

We then moved to sharing the idea of the "This is Me" program and had the teens drew the two overlapping cutural circles with the middle section labeled "ME". We did some brainstorming first about American culture then followed by their thoughts about Russian culture. I was surprised to find that they easily thought of negative cultural stereotypes for both groups easily, and had to really think to come up with positives for each group.

Our Russian community panel was very good. They were relaxed, talkative, and encouraged the teens to think positively about each of their cultural identities throughout the discussion. Lana was awesome and kept bringing the focus back to the kids and to deeper cultural traits when it got offf. Personal stories were shared by the panel as well as specific suggestions of Russian traits and characteristics to be proud of including strength, competiveness, aggression and hospitality. Lana stressed how Americans were very kind people giving some great examples as well.

The kids asked a lot of questions, ( none of the ones I gave them ahead of time). Some of their questions were: Should I feel bad if kids call me "commie" at school? How should I handle kids asking questions about me and Russia all the time? How do I handle my anger, was a question that both the panel and the teens peers gave great support and advice to the teen that brought it up.

The end was very nicely done, with each of the panel members sharing what they hoped the teens would remember to be proud of, including their strength and their cultural identity. They suggested that the kids hold on to their identity by reading about Russian history and other subjects and learning the language.

After the program, the kids had a lot of positive things to say including that this was the first time they had been able to ask Russian people about being Russian. I was impressed.

Developmentally I think this was the perfect age group for the discussion. The panel told me afterwards that they felt very good about it, and suggested that next time the teens could submit their own questions anonymously on paper to the panel to help them ask more questions. I thought this was a great idea."

Jolynne Reynolds, Regis College ProfessorCounseling Dept.

Heritage/Adoption Camps

Class

Arts, Culture & Humanities 

Beneficiaries

Adults
Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)
Ethnic/Racial Minorities -- General
Families
Young Adults (20-25 years)

Description

HCAF's programs include ten heritage camps for adoptive families, including:
--African/Caribbean Heritage Camp
--Chinese Heritage Camp
--Chinese Heritage Camp II
--Domestic Adoption Camp
--Indian/Nepalese Heritage Camp
--Korean Heritage Camp
--Latin American Heritage Camp
--Russian/Eastern European/Central Asian Heritage Camp
--Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Camp

In 2021, we continued offering educational webinars to parents of adopted children, adoptees, and the broader community because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback. While our webinars were launched at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly realized that they were an important learning opportunity and chance for families to stay connected to each other, and to expert guidance on adoption, race, and culture throughout the year. HCAF's webinars included topics such as Black Identity, Asian/American Identity, Latinx Identity, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, Gender & Sexuality, Adoption, Attachment, etc.

The uncertainty of the COVID pandemic and local restrictions led us to hold our second summer of Virtual Camps. We knew that many kids were tired of virtual learning, so we spent several months developing creative approaches that would engage children in hands-on, interactive ways. Additionally, families received packages with art supplies, spices for cooking, and other materials that reflected campers' birth cultures. Our 9 Virtual Camps included "opening ceremonies," online activities for various age groups, and parent meetups. Activities included cultural cooking classes, yoga, folktales and stories, games, dance, music, and cultural-themed scavenger hunts. Several of our camps included virtual field trips with presenters joining us from their home countries.

In October 2021, we held two in-person, one-day gatherings for our camp families, in Estes Park and Fraser, Colorado. Families participated in on-site activities and had the chance to connect for the day, with many choosing to spend the night and extend their time with other families.

In "normal" years without COVID-19: Through workshops and other activities, adoptive families are provided with a unique opportunity to learn about the language, customs, art, and music of the cultures that are inherently part of their family's life. Workshops emphasizing self-esteem, cultural differences and similarities, and adoption issues assist participants to recognize and manage the concerns facing adoptive families and the communities they live in. Adopted children and their families also have the opportunity to interact with positive role models from their culture of origin. Peer friendships are developed and promoted.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

One of the key ways we know the camps are working are through anecdotal comments we hear or read, such as:

"Being together as a family and with friends is great, but more important is having a place where the majority of kids are Chinese and adopted. This makes our kids feel very safe and secure and confident. Also, [we benefit from] the discussions our family has after camp - related to adoption and the great positive feelings about China!" OR
"As a first generation adoptee, there were not many adoptee camps available...I missed this opportunity as a child, so as an adult, the Korean Heritage Camp fulfills a void from my childhood...I have a greater appreciation for my unique heritage and truly embrace my fellow adoptees as we now serve as role models to the next generation of Korean adoptees."

Formally, we have an on-line evaluation families can fill out after camp, which helps us see how each camp program is doing.

HeART Talks

Class

Human Services 

Beneficiaries

Asian/Pacific Islander
Blacks
Children Only (5 - 14 years)
Ethnic/Racial Minorities -- General
Hispanics

Description

HeArt Talks™ - for elementary-age campers

The model was designed in 1995 by Mimi Farrelly-​Hansen, an experienced child art therapist, former preschool and elementary school teacher, and parent of a daughter adopted from India. Farrelly-Hansen created a sequence of age-appropriate art interventions that would facilitate conversation among children about their experiences of being adopted and raised by American families in the United States. These art activities, developed for each age group of children and youth, were designed with an understanding of the developmental stages of adoption awareness.

HeArt Talks™ is conducted by licensed art therapy counselors and volunteers with a focus on the following goals:
Provide a safe place for transculturally and transracially adopted children and siblings to talk and make art.
Reduce social isolation and promote empowerment via problem solving and art making.
Foster positive self-​esteem through affirming cultural roots and role models and through completing age appropriate art tasks.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

Anecdotal comments about the HeART Talks program:

"I really like them because while I'm doing it I make memories, too. It makes me remember that even though I'm the only adopted Indian in my school, there are other kids like me out there that go through the same things."

"I think this was one of the best workshops there was. My daughter carried her heart box with her all the way home. She also got the phone numbers of her friend and her counselor and put them in the heart box. She told me several times that her heart box was special."

"HeART Talks is an opportunity for the children to vocally and artistically express their feelings. Through this class we as counselors were able to clear up much confusion and clearly explain to the children why they should feel so lucky to have such dear and caring parents. Why they should not feel unloved, but just the opposite. This emotional river didn't run dry when we left the classroom, rather it extended throughout the day."

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