My family has spent a week at adoption camp for three summers now.  We love it and I see many more adoption camps in our future. The camp we attend is for adoptive families, and the children (biological, foster and adopted) range from infants to teenagers. There are lots of opportunities for families to participate in activities together (swimming, hiking, talent show) and also times when the kids spend time with others in their age-groups led by college-age counselors. Parents have plenty of opportunities to chat with each other too, both during adult sessions and during unstructured times. Here are four of the reasons I love adoption camp (and think you should go!):

There’s something for everybody

With a preteen and a toddler, it’s sometimes tough to find activities that everyone in my family will enjoy. But there’s something for everybody at adoption camp. From creek hikes to splashing in the pool, board games to carpetball (my daughter’s favorite!), our family can set our own pace and spend time together doing things that we all enjoy.

It offers risk-taking opportunities in a safe environment

Adoption camp is a great fit for my risk-taking daughter and kids like her. It offers the opportunity to try out activities that appeal to her adventurous side (hiking a mountain, rock climbing, horseback riding, archery) in a safe and well-supervised environment. She gets the satisfaction of pushing her physical and mental limits and I get the peace of mind of knowing that knowledgeable staff are there to train and guide her. Adoption camp also offers the opportunity for kids from hard places (and their families) to take the risk of connecting with other families, knowing that everyone will go home at the end of the week. Fortunately, there’s always snail mail—and next summer!

Learning and connection

One of my favorite parts of adoption camp is attending the parent sessions led by adoption professionals. I love learning, and these folks have given me great parenting strategies and pointed me in the direction of some fantastic resources over the years. Another great part of camp for me is spending some unplugged, unstructured time just enjoying my kids. For me, camp is a chance to catch my breath, learn something new, and bond with my family.

The big exhale

This is the number one reason we go to adoption camp, no doubt. Our conspicuous family is used to getting curious looks and comments everywhere we go. We are grateful for the places in our life where we can relax, breathe deeply, and not feel different. At adoption camp, we feel no need to explain ourselves because everyone’s family is conspicuous in one way or another. As a mom, it’s incredibly freeing not to be constantly explaining our family dynamics. And I want my kids to know that they are not alone, that there are lots of kids who live in families built by adoption. For me, adoption camp is a deep exhale, it’s settling for a few days into a place, a community, where other people “get” the unique challenges and joys of being an adoptive family. And I love that.

Adoptive parents, do you send your kids to adoption camp? Do you go with them? Why or why not?